It has fallen to my lot to write this gospel. My teacher was a most holy man. His real name was Fred, but for the reasons that will become apparent from the text, Fred was to go by the most holy title of Bit. In the last days of his life, Bit had me pledge to write his story so that others might have their eyes opened as I have from his wondrous revelation. Here is his story as best I can relate it from our discussions.
In the beginning there was ….. Well actually there was no beginning , because there has always been the All and the All is eternal.
Let me start again. One time as Fred was ……. There I go again. The two prime illusions of separateness are Time and Ego and I keep tripping over them– we may have to come back to this later.
So let me say something quickly, not stopping for objections, interpretations or the niceties of spiritual nuances.
Fred was a keen fisherman. He was an enthusiastic member of the Badenarong Fly-fishing Club. After he paid his dues a Badenarong fishing hat and creel were bestowed upon him. As all good fly-fishermen, Fred carried his favourite flies stuck into the band of his hat, ready for instant use.
One Sunday evening, just on dark returning from a satisfying afternoon angling, carrying his fly rod and creel and wearing his club hat, Fred was walking by the River of Indifference (also called by many other names, but this will do for now). He was oblivious to the world being fully distracted from awareness by thoughts and hubris.
Of a sudden Fred’s musings and self-obsession were interrupted. A loud and demanding cry disturbed his reverie.
“Hey, Bit! Hey, Bit!” came the sound. It was only afterwards he came to understand the words. Initially Fred just heard a two syllable sound which initially to be “haybit” or something similar. He looked around but could see nothing. Fred had heard from very doubtful sources that frogs sometimes uttered the sound “rebit, rebit” – but despite his closest inspection, in the fading light he could see no frogs.
Fred shook his head and continued to walk only now he was a little perplexed though not unduly perturbed. He slowly made his way beside the stream, hampered a little by his waders but more so encumbered by the inexplicable sound.
Very soon after, Fred was confronted by some very dramatic occurrences. The earth seemed to shake; a great darkness engulfed him only to be immediately displaced by a blinding light. He looked up – he was unable to tell whether he was awake, dreaming, or hallucinating at this point – to see a huge white star overhead that he was sure had not been there before. On his left a wattle tree burst into flames spontaneously. The evening birdsongs had resolved into a beautiful melodic theme with the most perfect counterpoints and harmonies.
The voice that had uttered the cry previously sounded again. “Yoohoo. Yoohoo. Are you listening Bit?” –then in sotto voce, “The things you have to do to gain attention.”
The voice was so insistent and close at hand that Fred cried out in alarm. “Have mercy! Have mercy! Do not harm me!”
“I am not going to harm you,” said the voice. “I can’t harm you without harming myself – and I definitely don’t think that would be a good idea. Don’t be concerned, Bit.”
“Who are you and what do you want? Please don’t hurt me. I will do my best to not displease you.”
“Who am I, Bit? Well I am the All. And what do I want from you? Well I have conducted an experiment that hasn’t gone particularly well. And I need some help from you, Bit.”
“Bit? Bit? Why do you call me Bit? My name is Fred.”
“No, no, no! Fred is an ego thing. In fact I am the All but you are a Bit – a part of the All. I call you Bit in recognition that you are a little part of me.”
“How can I be a little part of you? I can’t even see you. So what part am I – your nose? Your eyelid? Your toe nail?”
There came a great belly laugh. “Oh, that is beautiful. You seek to make your illusion, my illusion.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well of course I don’t have a nose, or eyelids or toe nails – and neither do you.”
Fred was perplexed by this. He placed his hand on his face and holding his nose, said, “Then what is this?”
“Oh, it is undoubtedly a nose. But it is not you.”
“Oh,” Fred said scornfully, “Then whose nose is it – Albert Einstein’s perhaps, or maybe Fred Astaire’s?”
“Oh, it is definitely part of that body that is associated with being Fred, but the point I am trying to make is that you are not your body. I know it seems that way, and that is the reason I am making this intervention with you. You see, for my own amusement, I cast off all these little bits of me and had them pretend they were separate – just to see what would happen. And now mostly all those bits have forgotten where they came from and are more concerned about these fragile edifices that I chose to place you in, than you are about the essence of your being.”
“What is this essence of my being? I thought the most precious thing I had was life. That is why, among other things, I have a concern for my body.”
“That is a common fallacy that separateness seems to have provoked. If you wished only for life, would you be satisfied with the life of an earthworm or a starfish?”
Fred thought for a moment. “No, I don’t think so.”
“Whyever not – they are alive are they not?”
“I guess so, but it is not the kind of life I would aspire to. Earthworms and starfish lack intelligence. Their lives seem very restricted. I want a life that is more fulfilling than what I believe their’s might be – at least, as they appear to me.”
“So, it’s intelligence you crave for? What if I said I could replace your brain with the most sophisticated computer ever devised? By doing this you could be a computational genius. You could be the chess master of the universe and be able to solve the most difficult mathematical equations.”
“Oh no, no!” Fred blurted. “That does not sound very attractive to me. I want to be able to appreciate sunsets. I want to be uplifted by poetry. I want to enjoy the warmth and the empathy of those who love me!”
“And, all of that, Bit, is merely a manifestation of your consciousness. That, indeed more than anything else, is what I have bestowed on you.”
“But I thought that consciousness was an outcome of mind.”
“Well of course it is.”
“Then how can you say you bestowed it on me. My mind is merely a construct of my brain. My brain is the outcome of billions of years of evolution.”
“You seem to have this endearing quality of being half right but absolutely wrong all at the same time.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Well for a start your mind is not a construct of brain, your brain is a construct of mind. And the billions of years of evolution is merely the process of mind progressing the universe forward.”
I shook my head in disbelief. “You have really lost me now.”
“Well, evolution is all about the structure of matter, and as one of your predecessors endearingly called ‘complexification’. The human brain is certainly an example of the outcome of that process.”
“Then, is it not true that mind is the qualitative outcome enabled by the increasing size and complexity of the brain?”
“No, of course not. Do you believe that consciousness can be an outcome of matter, whatever its complexity.”
“Then from what is consciousness derived?”
“Nothing, Bit – consciousness is derived from nothing.”
“How can that be?”
“Consciousness is eternal. It is the only reality. In fact, everything is derived from consciousness. If I were to write a holy book it would start, ‘In the beginning (if there had been a beginning) there was consciousness, and consciousness was with the All, and consciousness was the All.’ Doesn’t have a bad ring to it does it? Just knowing and understanding this would make a huge difference in the world.”
Fred was exasperated by all this. He was no longer afraid, but he was still perplexed. “You still haven’t told me what you want of me.”
“Well Bit, when I cast you off as a separate Bit from me, I had to make you independent of me if my experiment was to have any validity. I can see how my experiment is working from the outside (and unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be going too well) but because of the independence I granted you, I can’t see how it is going from the inside. I want to know from you, what it is like to live a separate life, temporarily (and really it is only a fleeting illusion) cut off from the All.”
Fred thought a while. “Well it has its ups and downs, but it seems to be underpinned by angst. Because, as you rightly pointed out I have identified with this body that you cast me in I am wracked by existential fear associated with my mortality. Even those that seem to have a religious belief are still fearful. They are fearful that they are good enough to meet the rigid strictures their God seems to impose upon them. The fear of not being good enough is pervasive because this God is seen as vengeful, wrathful and jealous and his punishments are horrendous.”
Fred stopped speaking. He suddenly cowered away shaking. “Oh no,” he gasped. “Are you God? Have I offended you? Oh please, please forgive me.”
The voice laughed, but not sarcastically – perhaps sympathetically.
“Can you forgive yourself if this is an error, Bit?”
Fred thought for a while. “Yes. If I offended you I did so from ignorance and not from any intent.”
“Well then, I will forgive you. For you see in such a little time you and I will be one again. In essence you are forgiving yourself.”
He waited for this to sink in and then continued, “Now to answer your other question, I am not God, I am the All”
Fred’s brow creased with perplexity. “What is the difference?”
“There is a huge difference. I am the All – I am everything including God, including men, including stars and rocks and spiders and seals and dandelions and ….well everything.”
“How does that differ from God?”
Most who talk about God are theists who believe there is an all-powerful, all-knowing God who lords it over the rest of the universe. So there is that which is God and that which is not God. God is the creator. The universe is the created. I am the All. If you want to believe in God then your God is part of me just as you are. There is nothing but me.”
“Then what about sin? Do you punish us for our sins?”
The All’s belly laugh again echoed around the hills. “Don’t you see? If you are part of the All, the hurt and suffering caused by your so-called sins are eventually suffered by you as well. Just as you are the ultimate beneficiary of your good deeds.”
“But enough, now. You have answered my question. It is just as I suspected –separation and fear are two side of the same coin, both at the collective and the individual level. That is what I came to find. I will go now, Bit. I am sorry to have alarmed you.”
Fred was dismayed. He had the unique opportunity of guidance from the One that was All but now he was going to abandon him.
“Don’t go. I need your guidance.”
“What do you want from me, Bit?”
“Well couldn’t you at least leave me ten commandments or something to guide my life.”
“Commandments? I don’t give commandments. If you don’t come to your own conclusions about how to behave and treat each other, but merely act out of fear of retribution from that part of me you call God, what good is that?’
After a moment he continued, “You told me you were full of fear – what is the antidote to that?”
Fred looked down for a moment but then came a clear realisation and he looked up towards the voice and said confidently, “Why, it is love.”
“That’s right. And a corollary of love is forgiveness. Love as widely as you can and forgive everything you possibly can and you will maximise the well-being in the world.”
“What about prayer?” asked Fred.
“Don’t petition me for I am not going to intervene in the world other than what I have done today. Don’t bother trying to flatter me – I don’t have an ego. If you were to take any advice from me, pray less and love more.”
“And that’s it. No more advice?”
After a short pause there was a chuckle and then the deep voice said, “You might try an elk hair caddis fly at the bottom of that next set of rapids tomorrow. I suspect it might lure up a nice brown trout.”
The earth rumbled again and Fred was left alone in the cool evening darkness.
Enlightened by the events related in this Gospel, Fred formed a new church which called the All In All. The catechism he developed for his church was appropriately called Bit By Bit.
When Fred died the leadership of the church, appropriately enough, was taken over by his best mate, Lew. A year after Fred’s death, to honour the church’s founder, Lew organised the Great All In All Convention. At this event church members deliberated on why it was that the All had singled out Fred for instruction. It soon became apparent that the principal reason was that Fred belonged to a chosen people – The Badenarong Fishing Club. The faithful rushed out to join the club, even though most of them had no interest in fishing. They took to wearing their Badenarong fishing creels and hats wherever they went – to the park, to the supermarket and even to the movies. Some people thought the creels were little cumbersome but this was soon forgotten when they learnt it was a convenient way to carry a few stubbies and a ham sandwich. When queried by the public at large why they should wear these strange accoutrements, they invariably replied that a chosen people has to look the part!
The club’s best angler Bluey became the spiritual adviser to the church. Bluey wrote a commentary on the Gospel showing how even the more basic fishing practices were really acts of devotion. For instance it was obvious that casting a dry fly was an act of praise and tying a nymph was an act of penitence. And, he said, in retrospect he wasn’t surprised that they had been losing their spiritual way. Hadn’t the All sent a pestilence to warn them? Weren’t the local streams being clogged with carp?
Club rules by and large adopted the teaching from the Gospel and anglers were exhorted to love everyone, including swimmers, canoeists and rafters. There was however one exception. Everyone agreed that bait fishermen should be treated with contempt!