I and the Father are One!
This week I have read a couple of books which have sparked in me an enthusiasm for approaching the notion of emptiness, and subsequently effortlessness, from an entirely different angle. The two books were: “The New Being” by Paul Tillich and “The Supreme Identity” by Alan Watts. Both of these books cover the entire spectrum of spiritual or religious thought. Mr. Tillich’s book is no doubt a Christian book through & through, while the one by Alan Watts looks upon the whole of religion without committing to a particular side. Both are equally fascinating. So, now that I have clearly recommended a few books to all those who read this, I can begin to approach the subjects of emptiness and effortlessness. These two are in principle opposite sides of the same coin, the yin and yang. Let us now take the time to consider the totality of this eternal relationship. Emptiness is an odd sort of subject to consider, because at the surface level it seems to be saying that in truth there is no one considering anything. This notion of selflessness is a difficult concept to wrap your mind around, and this is perhaps because it is not a concept. Selflessness is an insight, an expression of wisdom arrived at through negation, and any attempt to understand it through positive assertions creates quite the logical debacle. The whole question of emptiness can be addressed from the point of view of final revelation, or “Who is it that realizes emptiness?” One of the most famous exchanges in history may serve as a entryway for approaching this subject. In the book of Luke, chapter 20 verses 1-8, the “authorities” ask Jesus by what authority he presumes to preach. This is no doubt a loaded question, because he is forced to say by my own authority, which is the great blasphemy. He could have responded by God’s authority, but through tradition this authority was entrusted to the very people who were questioning him. Playing along Jesus responded with an even more loaded question, “By what authority was John’s Baptism, man or heaven?” This forced the temple authorities to either denounce the popular movement of John the Baptist, or grant Jesus recognized authority. Instead, the temple priests exercised their right not to answer. While this is an interesting example of Jesus’ sharp mind, the point I am working towards has nothing to do with the religious or political climate of ancient Palestine. The reason I have chosen this story, is because it raises the question of authority, and it is through understanding the nature of authority that we may be able to arrive at some insight into the nature of selflessness. Being an authority is to “author” something, and to be original is to come directly from the “origin”, as Alan Watts points out. So when they asked Jesus this question they were saying, “Who authored your teachings. What are the origin of these teachings?” This is one of the trickiest questions that can be put to a religious person. To say that I am the author, is to say that I have created and own the copyrights to truth. This turns the ego into the proprietor “proprietor of truth”, and reveals all subsequent words to be the subjective babble of a mad man, because they suggest that the finite holds in its grip the infinite. While to say, that the authority is tradition, is to admit that I have studied truth, committed it to memory, and would now like to submit a request to the appropriate authorities to become an authority myself. It turns realization into an application process, where truth has to be validated by those whose application has already been approved by a group of people, whose application has already been approved, so on & so on. Furthermore, realization in this system must be an intellectual pursuit, and as we have already mentioned approaching insight with a conceptual mind is a philosophical catastrophe, so either you end up missing the boat yourself or your application is rejected by those who have already missed the boat. Apart from self authority, traditional authority, and/or acquired knowledge how is it that selflessness is realized. It may be helpful at this point to think more in abstractions. Instead of using terms like selflessness and self, let us look at it from the point of view of finite and infinite. The self being the finite, as it is limited to its own subjective experience. While the infinite, by virtue of being the infinite, is limited by nothing. To look at the finite and the infinite as if they are opposed to one another, one being boundless & the other bounded, is to place the finite outside the realm of the infinite. Since, the infinite is not limited by anything it should follow that the finite does not exist apart from the infinite, because nothing could escape the jurisdiction of the boundless! It is the infinite that is the ground of being for the finite. Notice how the Infinite being the ground of being for the finite sustains the energetic or flowing quality of life. It walks the middle ground between the rigid solidity of absolutism, and the nothingness of nihilism. The relationship between the finite and infinite is found nestled between the concrete world of monism and the vacancy of pantheism. In monism God is solid and intrinsically apart from, and in pantheism God is nothing more than the sum total of its parts, so both represent opposite sides of the same shortcoming, annihilation or the stifling of life. It is the non-dual nature of reality which enables life to thrive. It is the infinite manifesting itself, in the totality of its essence, within the finite, ‘being of one substance’ with the finite. The infinite literally grows or begets the finite out of itself, and it is this unceasing growth that is called life. Now returning to a more practical language. Self or subjective reality can not grasp selflessness or objective truth. In other words, “I” can not comprehend ultimate truth, as “I” is limited it is incapable of understanding that which is unlimited. Unfortunately, this is where we spend most of our time and energy. We are all the time trying to move from the finite self to the ultimate truth or God by way of effort. We are all the time trying to earn authority, in order to move into the infinite sphere of being. This is an absurd enterprise funded by confusion. It is a confused goal, because the finite is never apart from the infinite. It requires confusion, a bit of backwardness, to turn your current position into a desired destination. “I” is never apart from the infinite. In fact, the ground of its very being is the infinite, for “I” to become distinct from the infinite is for it to cease to exist. “I” exists as a limited and subjective acknowledgement of the objective, a particular aspect of the infinite, but beyond that it is totally non-existent. This aspect of the infinite is not some intrinsic form of separation, but a result of thought making limited distinctions within the unlimited. The distinctions in no way limit the unlimited, as the infinite is the very ground which supports the finite. The finite does not add to nor subtract from, it does not impose or stretch the limits of the infinite, as all this is implausible within infinity. The finite is the play or “eternal dance” of the ultimate. To say that “I” can grasp truth is to say that finite thought can comprehend infinite truth, and this is clearly problematic. Perhaps it is the other way around, I am a manifestation of the infinite within space and time. Maybe, “I” is discovered by the infinite within the infinite! This brings us back to our original question, “Who is it that realizes truth?” As indicated in the previous paragraph “I” does not posses, realize, or manufacture truth. “I” is the product of finite thought working on the foundation of the infinite, and therefore does not supersede or transcend the infinite. It is the infinite which transcends the finite. The self is a result of thought moving, and thought receives its energy from the infinite. Beyond the delusions of subjective autonomy, is the uncensored eternal relationship between the finite and the infinite. It is the substance of the ultimate made manifest, ‘The Son is begotten not made, being of One substance with the Father’. The Son is poured forth from the Father, we are all poured forth from the Father. As it says in the Upanishads, ‘Then He realized, “I am this creation, for I have poured it forth from myself.” In this way He became this creation. In verily, he who knows this, becomes in this creation a Creator.’ Much in the same way that a wave is a particular manifestation of the ocean, the Son is a certain kind of manifestation of the Infinite. Through boundless Love, it is the infinite which breathes into being the Son, not the other way around. So, it follows that it is truth which recognizes me. “I” do not understand truth, but have been understood and made manifest by truth in Love. To be realized in this way is to be crucified and resurrected a “Son of God”. ‘I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives within me’. It is not through contrived effort, but crucifixion that we are discovered by the infinite. It is the insight, which arises when the subjective self ceases to cling to limited knowledge, and is realized to be the object of Divine Wisdom. The medium, so to speak, which enables this eternal relationship between the infinite and the finite, is Love. It is the limitless giving, a boundless pouring forth, the unceasing birth of ‘the only begotten Son’. It may be helpful to think of this in terms of the Father being the Eternal subject, the Son being the eternal object of awareness, and awareness being eternal Love, and all of this within the Infinite or the mind of the Godhead. There is no doubt that this was Jesus’ answer to the question of authority, for he said in John 12, “I have not spoken on my own authority, but on the authority of who sent me.” He also said, “I and the Father are one… I am the way, the truth, and the light… No one comes to the Father, but by me..” This is the same as saying, “The finite and the infinite are one… I am a manifestation of that which is infinite… No one comes to the infinite, but by realizing they are not apart from the infinite…” So, Jesus could have very well answered his inquisitive friends from the temple with, “I and the authority are one… The infinite authority is manifest in I… It is not I that possess the authority, but it is the authority which possesses me…” So, it would seem that the message of Jesus, and every other person who has been discovered by truth, is that there is more to being a person than what thought outlines. “If any man would follow me let him deny himself.” They are telling us to look within ourselves beyond thought into the realm of infinity. We must be “a light unto ourselves.” It is beyond thought that we will be discovered by truth. It is once we have transcended the conceptual world that things are revealed in proper order. “I” ceases to be the subject, as it is revealed to be the object of truth. Paradoxically, it is subjective reality, which is the object of objective reality! As Mr. Watts points out, “The eternal Father as the subject, the eternal son as the object, and eternal Holy Spirit as the verb- the Lover, the Loved, and the Love.” Since the infinite is boundless it can move no where, as it is everywhere, therefore ‘God abides in Love.’ Love is the eternal resting place of God. Not in the negation of thought, but beyond the conceptual world, this place of abiding is discovered, and in it we are called forth by our proper name, “Christ.” Being discovered by the Eternal Father reveals chaos to be order, as all faculties are put in their proper place. Instead of thought originating from some tyrannical maniac, it is discovered to be a manifestation of truth, revealed in Love. As the Bible reminds us over and over again, “God abides in Love, and Love within God….” There is no distinction between the two. Love is the inward manifestation of God, and it is in Love that we are revealed to be a manifestation of God, the Infinite!