It is all there, all the time, everywhere and everywhence. How overwhelming but how strange seen from the limited perspective of one man or woman’s eyes, or discerned by their senses; beyond our perception and our conception and therefore beyond normal belief.
And so we break it down to that little bit we can physically ‘know’; that we can mentally circumscribe. When you understand that the universe (or indeed perhaps even universes) exist eternally and all at once, the act of creation must be looked at differently. In effect there is nothing to create because everything that ever was or could possibly exist is there already. Then what is created? It is an illusion of reality. We have believed from our studies of physics that the universe was prised out of nothing. It seems to me now to be exactly the opposite. We are, as Bernhard Haisch, astrophysicist and author has written, part of a “process that makes something out of everything!” Consequently the world as we know it, this illusion created by the limitations of our physical and conceptual knowing, relies on a reductionist process of taking away until reality is pared down to something small enough to match our awareness.
And so we create an I and a you that are seemingly separate from everything else. We then seem to be alienated from the Ground of Being, God, the All (as per my recent little blasphemous blog!) – whatever we have learned to call it. This is what creates the human dilemma. Separation causes fear. It manufactures a perceived vulnerability, highlighted by our sense of mortality. We take steps to protect ourselves as do these other little crumbs of the ultimate reality we now need to deal with as other human beings in this limited bit of time and space we have shaved off in order to experience our separateness. As a result we become competitive, insecure, untrusting and fearful.
Ken Wilbur quoted Sri Ramana Maharshi attempting to resolve this paradox;
The world is illusory;
Brahman alone is real;
Brahman is the world.
(It is amazing how something evolving from the Vedanta tradition could sound so Zen –like!)
In 1944, Aldous Huxley published “The Perennial Philosophy.” In this book he underlined some of the pervading themes in the major religious traditions.
He enunciated the four fundamental doctrines at the core of the Perennial Philosophy as follows:
1. The phenomenal world of matter and individualised consciousness is the manifestation of a Divine Ground within which all partial realities have their being and apart from which they would be non-existent.
2. Human beings are capable not merely of knowing about the Divine Ground by inference; they can also realise its existence by a direct intuition, superior to discursive reasoning. This immediate knowledge unites the knower with that which is known.
3. Man possesses a double nature, a phenomenal ego and an eternal Self, which is the inner man, the spirit, the spark of divinity within the soul. It is possible for a man, if he so desires, to identify himself with the spirit and therefore the Divine Ground, which is of the same or like nature with the spirit.
4. Man’s life on earth has only one end and one purpose: to identify himself with his eternal Self and so to come to unitive knowledge of the Divine Ground.
Huxley maintained that the Perennial Philosophy is expressed most succinctly in the Sanskrit formula tat tvam asi (“That thou art.); the Atman, or immanent eternal Self, is one with Brahman, the Absolute Principle of all existence; and the last end of every human being is to discover the fact for himself, to find out who he really is.
Now I must say I find this a much more satisfying and consoling thought than Jesus coming again or Allah allowing me into paradise with whatever my allotment of virgins might be!
A Note to my Younger Readers
(This probably includes only Cathy and Father Robin, I suspect – but they’re worth the effort!)
• These days “phenomenal” is used in a more colloquial way to mean “extraordinary, remarkable prodigious,” for example. In the instance above (“phenomenal ego”) phenomenal means arising from the phenomena, that is the phenomena of separation and physicality.
• The language used by Huxley above in defining his four doctrines would be seen possibly as sexist today. However in his time “man” was generally interpreted as humankind and the use of the masculine pronouns was understood to include the feminine. And one could understand an imperious and paternalistic style because the sun was still never setting on the British Empire! Interestingly Huxley has belatedly been given some recognition for his enlightened views on women. An early essay, for example took the cosmetic industry to task for demeaning women.