Part Three - The Right Approach: Looking To The Universe
10 - An Act Of Faith
We ended the last chapter by showing that whatever we can think about or 'see' is external (as we have defined the term) and is thus in the diverse or the world of difference. Any such external 'object' is not 'me' but is distinct and different from me, and thus I can call it "mine" - my pen (assuming the pen is mine and not yours), my body, my mind, my-personality, my idea, my levels of consciousness, etc. To look at any experience which has as its cause an external 'object' (ie physical or mental concept or event) or involves merely the rearranging of diversity and difference, is futile for extricating us from Unpeace.
Now this process of externalising everything, being able to say in each case "this thing is not me, it is in some sense (spatially or mentally) external to me," has been recognised in many systems of philosophy throughout the world. But the conclusion reached is usually that there is then nothing which does not belong to the diverse, since everything can (it is held) be thought about and so externalised. For instance, there is the Buddhist doctrine of 'anatta' or 'no-soul' which is arrived at through this approach, and is remarkably similar to Hume's conclusion that a person is "nothing but a bundle or collection of different perceptions" 1 which he came to after a bout of introspective searching.
But we come to the starting point of Part Three of this book when we realise that there is, in fact, something which cannot be thought about and externalised; and that is the 'me' which is doing the thinking and externalising. Whatever I think about, be it physical object or mental concept, 'I' must be doing the thinking, so that 'I' can never be the object of my thought - in other words, 'I' am not external.
Here we must be a little careful with our terms, and must distinguish between the objective self (what we have termed the private world or mind) and the 'I', the active sense of personal identity which we cannot think about. We tend to confuse the two and lump them together, calling them both 'me' or 'I' sometimes. In this book the private world, which we often speak about as if it were in some sense 'me', but which we have shown to be external and the object of experience and thinking, we will call the 'self' or 'ego', and which we talk about as 'my-self'. The 'I', that essential essence which cannot be thought about or externalised, we will call 'me' or 'I'. This terminology is slightly different from some writers, particularly William James and George Herbert Mead who, although they used 'I' as we do, called the 'self' or 'ego' the 'me', whereas here 'I' and 'me' are synonymous. Also, of course, our use of the term 'ego' is here very different from Freud's use of it.
Now the reader will recall that we defined in Chapter 5 something to be 'external' if it belongs to the diverse or world of difference, and also the other way around, that anything belonging to the diverse was external. So it follows that if the 'I' is not external, then it must be in a world of non-difference or non-diversity; that is, unity. For where there is no difference, no multiplicity, there must be oneness or unity. So beyond the diverse (the 'turned into two'), we are led to postulate that there must exist a 'Uni-verse' that really lives up to its name's meaning of 'turned into One'.
Of course, the argument we have put forward is not a 'proof' that there must exist a realm of non-difference, ie a Uni-verse, or the 'One' as we shall call it. We showed in Chapter 8 that to establish the existence of non-difference or to enquire into its nature by means of discursive thought is impossible.
But why do we have to use thought or intellect (as we have defined the word)? After all, we know we have experience of external objects from both the public and private worlds, but why do we have to interpret and form knowledge of them by means of the intellect? Earlier on we just assumed that we all do things discursively, the scientist and professional thinker merely making their thinking sharper and more precise, but we offered no reason for why this should be so.
The fact is that we are free to choose the methods by which we interpret and apprehend our experiences; and the choice to use thought and reason is essentially arbitrary and an act of faith.2 The scientist and externalist in general may hold that only through the intellect can we understand our experiences and obtain knowledge of the world. Whether this is correct or not is immaterial, the point is that the belief is based on faith. For it is not possible to prove the validity of discursive thought by discursive thought, for this would be arguing in a circle. So all the intricate and imposing edifices built by the intellect, structured so as to exclude all methods of knowing other than discursive thought and reasoning (such as belief and faith), in fact have as their foundation belief and faith. (We mean by 'faith' acceptance not based on reason.)
Bertrand Russell is a fine example of someone who put his faith in the intellect and then refused to admit the validity of faith or any form of knowing other than reasoning in his philosophy and thinking. We quoted him at the end of Chapter 2 as agreeing that the intellect was limited, but he goes on to say that he refused "to believe that there is some 'higher way of knowing, by which we can discover truths hidden from science and the intellect." 3
There have been, however, many people in this world, at all times and in all countries, who have held that there another way of knowing other than thought or by intellect. If this way of knowing is not discursive, ie not 'running into duality', then it must be a way of knowing 'running' into non-difference or the One, and we will for the moment just call it Knowing (spelt with a capital 'K').
What exactly 'Knowing' is, and who the "many people" are, we will come to a little later. At the moment we are concerned with establishing that if there is a method of interpreting what we experience other than by discursive thought, then it is no more illogical or unreasoning to examine it as it is to examine the intellectual method, since both are based on faith.
Those who have made use of both knowing and Knowing (ie the discursive and the non-discursive) have stressed that before either can be used we need to make this act of faith; it is a necessary prerequisite for employing any method of understanding our experiences. St. Augustine of Hippo, famous as an intellectual philosopher and as a mystic, says "… do not seek to understand in order that you may believe, but make the act of faith in order that you may understand; for unless you make an act of faith you will not understand." 4 We also have the 15th century Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa, philosopher, mathematician, politician and mystic writing "He who wishes to rise to knowledge must first believe those things without which knowledge is impossible … Faith therefore embraces every intelligible thing. Understanding is the unfolding of that was wrapped up in faith." 5
Now we have examined the consequences of putting faith in the intellect, and have found that Unpeace remains. So we will in the rest of this book be examining the consequences of putting faith in Knowing. For of the "many people" who have made that primary step of faith to examine the method of Knowing, some report that the non-differentiated, Uni-versal One does indeed exist. Its existence can be proved, and it can be in a sense investigated, via Knowing. The names given to this realm of non-difference or the One are many. A short list would include the following: The Absolute, Ultimate Reality, Motionless Mover, Supreme Being, Universal Mind, Self (capital 'S'), Causeless Cause (philosophical); God, Spirit, Godhead, The Father, Demiurge, Logos (Christian); Brahman, Atman, Satchitananda (Hindu); The Void, Dharmakaya, Bhututathata (Buddhist); Tao (Chinese); Allah, al-Haqq, Wahdat al-Wajud (Islamic); Toiora (Maori), Ton (Oglala Indians), etc, etc
The heart of the scientific method is the collecting and weighing up of evidence for an hypothesis. Here we find presented the hypothesis that the One exists and is discoverable by a method other than discursive thought. It would surely be most unscientific were we not to look at and consider the evidence for this, bearing in mind that our faith in the intellect and externalism appears to have been misplaced as far as the finding of Peace is concerned.
Although this is a short chapter, it is crucial for bridging the gap between Part Two and Part Three. We first showed that we can assume an 'I' which externalises the public world and the private world of self, but which cannot itself be thought about or externalised. Because the 'I' is non-external it must belong to non-difference or the One. This cannot be intellectually proved (Chapter 8), but many claim to have 'proved' it by a method other than discursive thought, called Knowing. Both methods of interpreting our experience require an act of faith before they can be used. Owing to the apparent inability of the intellect to liberate us from Unpeace, we will examine in some detail the process of Knowing.
11 - The Knowers
We have to begin at looking at the evidence of the One by considering who our witnesses are. We stated in the last chapter that "many people" have claimed to Know the One; and indeed, there are as many names for such people as there are names given to the One. They are called variously: mystics, saints, sages, contemplatives, visionaries, knowers of God, prophets, realised souls, seers, yogis, rishis etc etc They have existed in all countries at all times; sometimes obviously, sometimes almost unknown. Their one common factor is that it is obvious from their writings and sayings that they Knew the One; they proclaim that it exists and that the finding of it liberates from all forms of Unpeace. We will deal largely with European witnesses of the One,1 since we are of their culture and they speak in such terms we can readily understand; but such witnesses are to be found everywhere.2
However, if we go through a list of such witnesses, we find that while they all speak of the One in their various ways, it is obvious that very many are nevertheless still steeped in the world of difference and the diverse. Either they have visions or experiences of things which are transient and diverse, and are thus what we have defined as private or mental 'objects'; or else the visions and experiences are themselves transient and short-lived, and can thus be considered as being in the realm of difference and diversity. Indeed, the well-known writer on mysticism, F.C.Happold, says that "Mystical states … rarely last for any length of time," 3 and the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary defines 'mysticism' as, amongst other things, "a term of reproach applied loosely to any religious belief associated with self-delusion and dreamy confusion of thought." In view of this, we will be very critical of the witnesses we will choose, picking those who not only appear to have definitely Known the One, but who also laid no importance on anything of the diverse, either in their writings or in their lives, other than in relation to the One they claimed to have Known. For lack of a better name, we will call such people 'Knowers' (with capital 'K'), since they use non-discursive 'Knowing' rather than discursive 'knowing', as we pointed out in the last chapter. The nature of this 'Knowing' will be dealt with in the next chapter; in this chapter we will select our 'Knowers' and see what they claim to have known.
We will begin with one of the post dominant figures in Western Christianity, St. Augustine of Hippo (345-430). Augustine lived in turbulent times; he saw the collapsing of the Western Roman Empire, Rome itself being sacked by the Visigoths in 410 and the province of his birth (North Africa, being overrun by the Vandals in 429. He wrote a detailed autobiography (The Confessions 4), which enables us to know more of his life than of most others. In spite of there being profound and obvious unrest and diversity all around him, he himself was very balanced, at home with discursive thought and with suprarational Knowing; with action and with contemplation.
Like all Knowers, Augustine held that there definitely existed a world of non-difference:
That is chiefly to be said to be, which always exists in one and the same way; which is every way like itself; which can in no way be injured or changed; which is not subject to time; which cannot at any one time be other than at another. For this is what is most truly said to be.5
Knowers of the One always maintain that the world of non-difference, the Uni-verse, exists in a way that the diverse does not exist. For since any external object is in the world of difference, they must at one time have been created, and will at some time in the future be destroyed; thus its existence is limited. But in the One, because it is in non-difference, there can be no change, so the One exists forever:
For all things that are changed cease to be what they were, and begin to be what they were not. True being, pure being, real being has no one save Him who does not change. (Augustine) 6
Of course, for Augustine, "Him" is God, the term he uses for the One. God's existence is permanent, as opposed to the transient existence of external things:
He truly, exists, because He is unchangeable. (Augustine) 7
If God, or the One, has in it (or Him) no difference, then not only must there be no change in God, but also no separateness. This implies that God must be everywhere: God is in all places and in each place God is all at once. (Eckhart) 8
All is One and One is all in all. (Eckhart) 9
This brings us on to our second Knower, the great and somewhat controversial Master Eckhart (1260-1328).10 Eckhart was a Dominican friar, whose life was spent in studying and teaching. He got his degree of Master of Sacred Theology from the University of Paris in 1302, and five years later he was appointed Vicar-General of Bohemia, which was an important post and demanded much travelling. He was a very popular preacher throughout Germany though his later years were darkened by his trial for heresy and his harassment by the church authorities. This was partly due to his original and forceful way of expressing himself, which although making him easily understandable to the modern reader, must have sounded terrible to many pious and orthodox Christians. For instance, he expresses the non-duality of God very effectively with:
God is neither good nor true.11
For God, being in non-difference, must be beyond the dualities belonging to the world of difference, such as good and bad, or true and false.
Eckhart commonly calls the One the "Godhead", and usually keeps the term "God" for another meaning, which we will deal with in Chapter 13. Unfortunately, he sometimes uses the word "God" for both meanings, and in the above quotation it is obvious that by "God" he means "Godhead" or the non-differentiated One.
These two, Augustine and Eckhart, will be our primary European witnesses, along with John Ruysbroeck and William Law. Ruysbroek (1293-1381) was for twenty six years a secular priest living in Apostle-like poverty, moving in 1343 to a hermitage near Brussels. For the last thirty years of his life he attracted many disciples, and from all accounts he was a very beautiful person. He was much influenced by Eckhart, and like him held unquestionably that the non-differentiated One existed.
In the eternal now, … the Godhead is, in simple essence, without activity; eternal rest. (Ruysbroeck) 14
In using William Law (1686-1761) we have the great advantage that he was English, so we can read his testimony as he wrote it, and do not have to read him through a translator. He studied at Cambridge and led the life of a high churchman, after which in 1727 he became a spiritual director to a family at Putney. For the last twenty years of his life he lived as a recluse near his birthplace at Stamford, where he wrote his so-called mystical writings. He did much charity work, and was loved by all. Like the others we have mentioned, he Knew that non-difference exists:
… The One eternal immutable God that from eternity to eternity changed not. (Law) 15
So much for the European Knowers. However, apart from them we will look at the evidence of three non-European Knowers, each from a very different culture. While it would be perfectly possible to list the testimonies of hundreds, if not thousands, of such people, in the limited space available this is obviously impracticable. These particular three are chosen because of their fame and the fact that they are representative of their class.
To represent the Knowers of China and Japan, both Buddhist and Taoist, we will choose the Dhyana or Zen master Huang Po (known as Obaku in Japan). He lived in the 9th century, and was a very influential master, a sect being named after him. He gives many names to the One, often 'Tao' or "The Void", but he is a witness that it definitely exists:
The very nature of the Tao is voidness of opposition.16
Hence we say that the Void has no inside and outside.17
ie it is everywhere.
As a witness for the existence of non-difference from India, we have Shankara, usually held to have lived about 800 AD.18 He was a great teacher, and founded ten Hindu monastic orders; he also wrote a great deal. He only lived 32 years, but he is one of India's most famous Holy Men, and was most definitely a Knower of the One; he talked of it as being … birthless and deathless. It neither grows nor decays. It is unchangeable, eternal.
To finish our list of witnesses, we have a Knower of God from Islamic culture, Shabistari (Sa'd al-Din Mahnud) who died in 1320. He is one of the most famous Sufi poets, and lived mainly in Persia. He was constantly proclaiming the existence of the non-differentiated One, where there is no multiplicity and which encloses everything by nature of its non-separateness;
There are many numbers, but only One is counted. 20
All is One, both the visible and the invisible. 21
In all things, see but One, say One, know One. 22
What is striking in any investigation of the testimonies of Knowers of the One, is that while the cultures and times might be varied, the testimonies themselves are remarkably similar. Just in our small selection we have 5th century Christian and 14th century Muslim, 9th century Chinaman and 18th century Englishman all speaking of the same thing in the same terms - the One, the absolutely and completely non-differentiate which does not admit of any of the difference or diversities mentioned in Part One.
Now one of the aspects of the world of difference which has occupied us most is that of change - the fact that there is change, conflict and motion all around us at all times, in our body, in our mind and in the environment. This looking to the changing external is fruitless for true Peace, since the external is always transient and impermanent. But the One, by virtue of its being non-different, is changeless, complete rest and immovable as we have seen.
Only the One is at rest in itself receiving nothing from without. (Eckhart) 23
God is God in that he is immovable. (Eckhart) 24
So it follows that if we are living in the world of non-difference, in the One or the Godhead, we will be in complete Peace, and be subject to no suffering, pain or misery in any form, for all change will have ended. We will have no desires to drag us into the world of the diverse, for the One, in that it contains everything, will satisfy all our desires. This may sound somewhat cold and repugnant, and may appear to offer a vegetable-like existence and to be utterly selfish. Knowing the One is none of these, which we hope to make clear later; in this section we merely want to show that Knowing the One is a very blissful thing to do, giving complete and utter Peace at all levels. The Knowers of God are in a Peace and bliss which totally transcends all duality and difference, and of which only the faintest echo can be detected by those still conditioned by the diverse.
In the contemplation of God is … everlasting rest, and joy that will never be taken from us. (Augustine) 25
(Those in the Godhead) have steadfast peace and inward joy … of which the world cannot partake. (Ruysbroeck) 26
For nothing is more joyful to the lover of God, than to feel that he belongs wholly to His Beloved. (Ruysbroeck) 27
(The Knower of the One is) free from any cravings. Such a man is said to be free even in this life. For him the sorrows of this world are over. Though he possesses a finite body, he remains united with the Infinite. His heart knows no anxiety. (Shankara) 28
He is happy who knows God, even though he know nothing else. (Augustine) 29
Spiritual inebriation is this: that a man receives more sensible joy and sweetness than his heart can either contain or desire. (Ruysbroeck) 30
He who has all he will, his every wish, that man has peace. None has it but the man whose will and God's are wholly one (Eckhart) 31
All I desire I have found in Him. (Shabistari) 32
Apart from change, the other main aspect of difference which has concerned us is separateness, which we see about us at all levels - physical, psychological and social. In Chapter 2 we pointed out many examples of suffering and Unpeace, all stemming from this basic separateness. And since separateness is so basic, then any unity or affinity we may see or feel will be incomplete; for being in the diverse we cannot help but view all which comes from oneness or togetherness in terms of the fundamental fact of separateness.
We also pointed out in Chapter 8 that we nevertheless have a liking for unity - a sort of intellectual instinct to tie everything together under one label. This yearning after non-difference is very strong (even though we have seen that there is no hope of realising it discursively) and it reflects our primary urge to escape that Unpeace caused by separateness.
Now the One by virtue of being non-differentiated, must not only admit of no change, but also of no separateness - ie it must be complete Oneness. The word we most often use to denote unity or lack of separation is 'Love' (as opposed to an affinity dependent upon essential separateness, ie still in the diverse, which is 'love' (small 'l')). This Love (big 'L') is unquestionably found in the One by those who claim to Know.
If anyone should ask me What God is, I should answer: God is Love. (Eckhart) 33
And because the One contains no separateness, then it must be everywhere, as we have seen the Knowers claim previously. Since if the One were not at any place, ie were finite, then it would have an 'inside' and an 'outside' which would make it limited and in the world of difference and duality. Then since the One is everywhere, it must follow that its aspect of non-separateness or Love must also be seen to be everywhere by the Knowers of the One.
The truly spiritual man is he that sees God in all things. (Law) 36
But when the vision of the 'I' - the supreme, the absolute, the One without a second - shines forth … then all sense of separateness vanishes. (Shankara) 37
… the One is the source and fountainhead and breaking forth of glowing Love. (Eckhart) 38
It follows from this that the true Knower of the One must have infinite compassion and Love for everybody. Rather than be immersed like a vegetable in his own private bliss and finding peace, he sees that all creatures are in the One and thus he cannot but help Loving them in the true sense of the word. For just as we have to act in accordance with separateness when in the diverse, so we have to act in accordance with unity and Love when in the One.
Of course, the Knower has to act in his body as if there were separateness, at least on a physical level, otherwise he could not move or act at all, since as we have seen all motion depends on separateness (Chapter 2). But he knows that the unity is more basic and fundamental than the separateness whereas the person conditioned by the diverse sees it the other way round.
Thus the Knower of the One lives a life concerned with helping others and eradicating the sense of separateness in them as much as he can. In other words, he manifests actively that Love which he has fund in the One, living an active life rather than one of selfish self-satisfaction and self-effacement.
I do not preach a doctrine of extinction! (Huang Po) 39
Nothing can come from God but … works of Love over all nature and creature. (Law ) 40
The Spirit of God expires us without for the practice of Love and good works. (Ruysbroeck) 41
One may not be so given up to contemplation as to neglect the good of his neighbours. (Augustine) 42
No man reaches the point at which he can be excused practical service. (Eckhart) 43
Do not permit the events of your daily lives to bind you, but never withdraw yourselves from them. (Huang Po) 44
Towards The One
We have, in broad outline, justified that Peace and Love come from the One according to our witnesses. We have also previously shown that apart from the One, ie in the world of difference and diversity, then Unpeace and lack of Love are the foundations for our actions and behaviour. For the sake of completeness, it is worthwhile to point out that this essential Unpeace in the external and the diverse, the conclusion of Part Two, is also maintained to be the case by the Knowers, as is also the endless search for satisfaction in the diverse.
Man is always searching for holiness and happiness. Satisfaction, perfection, does not belong to creature. (Eckhart) 45
Whom have you seen in the whole world (of difference)
Whoever once acquired pleasure without pain. (Shabistari) 46
(In the diverse, we are) consumed by the scorching heat of this worldly life, as by the flames of a forest fire. (Shankara) 47
Our heart is restless, until it repose in Thee. (Augustine) 48
There is no hell but where the will of the creature is turned from God. (Law) 49
When the natural life is deprived of or fallen from God … it can be nothing else but a play and torment of covetousness, envy, pride and wrath, all which is precisely nature, self, or hell. (Law) 50
We can regard our inherent and fundamental desire for the One as being generated either from the wish to end the Unpeace born of difference, or from the lure and attraction of being in Peace as described earlier in this chapter. Whether we choose to think of ourselves as being prodded on towards the goal, or as being enticed on, is immaterial. The result is the same - that we are continually in a process of evolving, of being born into union with the One, the source of all Peace. We are caught up in the whole striving of the diverse to transcend this diversity and attain the One.
Whether you like it or not, Whether you know it or not, secretly all nature seeks God and works towards him. (Eckhart) 51
Creatures are all striving after their primitive pure nature, after their supreme perfection. (Eckhart) 52
This mind of ours seeks to find something that is God. It seeks to find a Truth not subject to change, a substance not capable of failing. (Augustine) 53
(Man) is born into this world, not for the sake of living here, not for anything this world can give him, but only to have time and place to become an eternal partaker of a divine life with God. (Law) 54
God, despite himself, is ever hanging over some bait to lure us into him. (Eckhart) 55
If this whole process of 'being born' to fulfil our destiny of finding the One is the most basic and fundamental process underlying our Life, then we have solved in principle the problem of ethics or morality. For a 'good' action then becomes an action which is done to further or assist the process of Knowing the One, and a 'bad' action is one which attempts to hinder or fight against the current of God-realisation which is carrying all creation towards the One. This will be dealt with in Chapter 13; now we will finish this chapter by simply pointing out that the Knowers of the One hold that not only do we in practice seek the One and its attendant Peace, but that this is what we should do; this is what is good and right - evil and sin, on the contrary consist in living in the world of difference and obstructing all attempts to find and follow the way to the One.
All sins are contained in this one category, one turns away from things divine and truly enduring, and turns towards those which are mutable and uncertain (Augustine) 56
Sin in all shapes is nothing else but the will of man … broken off from its dependency upon and union with, the divine will. ALL the evil and misery in the creation arises only and solely from this one cause. (Law) 57
Man must build on God alone. (Eckhart) 58
In this chapter we introduced our witnesses who claimed to Know the One, and we looked at some of their testimonies, European Knowers were Augustine, Eckhart, Ruysbroeck and Law, the others were Huang Po, Shankara and Shabistari. We came to the following conclusions:
i) the One exists and can be Known,
ii) Knowing the One causes Peace, on account of non-change, and
iii) Is Love on account of non-separateness.
iv) Because the One is everywhere, Knowers see it everywhere and are so led to Love their fellow creatures and men actively.
v) We all strive to find the One, and it is 'good action' to do so consciously.
12 - The Knowing
In this chapter we will enquire into the 'Knowing' of which we have spoken in the last two chapters. We have observed that intellectual or discursive knowing (small 'k') while efficient in rearranging difference and dealing with the external, cannot transcend the diverse and find the One. However, it is the testimony of many, of which our seven witnesses are but a sample, that the diverse can be transcended, and the One found; furthermore, that this is the purpose and aim of our lives the primary reason we are here on this planets.
We observed in Chapter 10 that the rejection of 'knowledge ('small 'k') as a means to find the One was not in fact a sweeping away of systematic reasoning and discursive thought to be replaced by blind faith or unreasoning belief, since all reasoned and discursive knowledge is based on an act of faith in the first place. In other words we cannot prove the validity of reason with reason, because that would mean we were accepting the validity of reason, which is what is to be proved. Thus our use of knowledge is based upon an assumption which is usually unquestioned, and what we did in much of Part Two was, in fact, to question this assumption; and we found that from a variety of viewpoints (ie experience, the practical, theoretically and plain commonsense) we could justifiably conclude that knowledge, based upon intellect and reasoning, was insufficient for transcending diversity and attaining the One or Godhead. Needless to say, the Knowers of the One fully substantiate this:
Those who seek the Truth (ie the One) by means of intellect and learning only get further and further away from it. (Huang Po) 1
It (the One) will not be disclosed by logic. (Shabistari) 2
One man whose mind is free from notions and from forms is more dear to God than the hundred thousand who have the habit of discursive reason. (Eckhart) 3
Let reason go. (Shabistari) 4
Cast out the dross acquired through heterogeneous learning. (Huang Po) 5
Anything we know that we are able to impart or that we can define, that is not God. (Eckhart) 6
Everything in the Godhead is One, and of that there is nothing to be said. (Eckhart) 7
We cannot say or think anything about the One, because in the One there is no difference and no duality, and words and thoughts are discursive and can thus only hope to describe the diverse or world of duality. Nevertheless, it is possible to understand intellectually what the One is not. This is reminiscent of Chapter 7, where we found that although no hypothesis could be proved with 100% certainty, we could hold that a wrong hypothesis could be negated with a 100% certainty.
The reader will notice that we have only talked about the One, in effect, in terms of what it is not. We first described the world of difference in terms of separateness, change, duality etc, with which we are all familiar, and then we described the One as negations of these terms - non-difference, non-separateness, unchange etc The fact that we gave these negative terms positive sounding names (eg One, Love, Peace etc) does not invalidate the fact that to think or say anything about the world of non-difference we have to do so in negative terms.
Aught that a man could or would think of God, God is not at all. (Eckhart) 8
Something we do know, namely what God is not. (Eckhart) 9
God is neither this nor that. (Eckhart) 10
Brahman (ie the One) is to be known as 'not this, not that'. (Shankara) 11
The reader will remember that we approached the concept of the non-external One by considering that while we could think about and hence externalise all public and private 'objects', we could not think about the 'I' that was doing the thinking.
(The 'I' is) the knower of the activities of the mind and of the individual man. It is the witness of all the actions of the body and the sense-organs. (Shankara) 12
What could begin to deny itself, if there were not something in man different from self? (Law) 13
Thus we could say that the 'I' is non-external; and hence that it is by definition in the realm of non-difference, or what we termed the "One". Now of course there cannot be two 'things' in non-difference, since that would imply duality and separateness - so the 'I' and the One must be not merely the same, but must be identical. Eckhart often uses the word 'soul' for what we mean by 'I'.
The soul is not like God; she is identical with him. (Eckhart) 14
Soul and Godhead are one. (Eckhart) 15
Know the One as the real 'I'. (Shankara) 16
God and I are both the same. Then I am what I was, I neither wax nor wane, for I am the motionless cause that is moving all things. (Eckhart) 17
Now the One, by virtue of its possessing no separateness, must be everywhere and have no limits, as we saw our Knowers testify in the last Chapter. In fact, we can go further and say that if non-difference is everywhere and in all places, then the difference and diversity which we experience cannot exist. If the diverse did exist, then some part of the One (which is everywhere) would contain diversity and difference, which cannot be the case since we defined the One as being entirely non-differentiated. However the diverse obviously does exist - we have been examining its effects in Parts One the and Two, and took the Unpeace which it generates as a starting point of the whole book. We will deal with the paradox in the next chapter, but for now we notice that although the One is by definition everywhere, it is only as the 'I' that its nature of non-difference is evident. Thus while the One manifests in some way as the diverse, for practical purposes, ie for us to Know the One, we must look to the 'I', for that is identical with the completely non-differentiated One, the Godhead, as we have seen.
Though God is everywhere present, yet he is only present to thee in the deepest and most central part of thy soul. (Law) 18
My life depends upon God being … present in me. So is he also in a stone, a log of wood, only they do not know it. (Eckhart) 19
So we can see from all this that in order to Know rather than just to know, we have to look to the 'I'; that which is non-differentiated and non-diverse. The 'I', by virtue of being non-external is inside us - in fact is us, our heart and essence, and it is to this point 'within' us that we have to look.
Man's heart is the central point. (Shabistari) 20
Turn to thy heart, and thy heart will find its God within itself. (Law) 21
Let me know me, Lord, and I shall know Thee. (Augustine) 22
When you attain to full realisation, you will only be realising the Buddha-Nature (ie the One) which has been with you all the time (Huang Po) 23
Begin to search and dig in thine own field for this pearl of eternity that lies hidden in it. (Law) 24
Here, within this body, in the pure mind, in the secret chamber of intelligence, in the infinite universe within the heart, the 'I' shines in its captivating splendour, like a noonday sun. By its light, the universe is revealed. (Shankara) 25
Do thou all within. (Augustine) 26
Pray within thyself. (Augustine ) 27
The finding of the One or the Godhead 'within' is what we have termed 'Knowing'. But note that this Knowing is not discursive, nor depends on any difference, for the 'I' which looks inside for the One, is the One itself. So there is no duality. And for this reason, Knowing is not experiencing - it is union. For experience can only operate in the world of difference and duality, since any experience has at least two parts - the experiencer and the thing experienced. But when the experiencer (the 'I') and that which is experienced are the same thing, the One, then we are in a realm beyond experience - there is complete merging or union.
Thus it is that we cannot term the 'I' a private 'object', ie part of our private world or mind. For we experience that part of the mind we call the conscious, and thus it belongs to the world of difference and is external, as we have seen. As for that part of the private world we do not experience, which we call the non-conscious, there is much evidence for us holding it to be active with a kind of non-conscious thinking, as we saw in Chapter 9. Thus it also belongs to the diverse.
But the 'I' is non-external, and being non-differentiated is in total unchanging rest, and so is neither a public nor a private 'object'. It cannot be objectified, externalised, thought about or known in any discursive way at all; indeed, it cannot, even be said to be experienced. To Know the One, 'I' have to find 'I', which means that Knowing is completely non-discursive - it is union. The only way we can express it is to say that to Know the One is the same as to become or be the One. Knowing is synonymous with complete being.
In the case of God, being and Knowing are identical. (Eckhart) 28
Then will your being, as a drop
Fall into the ocean of the Eternal. (Shabistari) 29
My mind fell like a hailstone into that vast expanse of the ocean of the One. Touching one drop of it, I melted away and became one with the One. (Shankara ) 30
Thus is man one with the Eternal, Travelling, travel and traveller have become one. (Shabistari) 31
The Knower and the Known are one. Simple people imagine that they should see God, as if he stood there and they here. This is not so. God and we are one in Knowing. (Eckhart) 32
Love in union is like the honeycomb in honey. (Eckhart) 33
This merging into and becoming the One is very far from being an extinction - a complete annihilation of personality and identity. Rather, it is the opposite, an enlarging of consciousness whence the sense of personal identity expands to include the whole world, thereby transcending the limitations of identity with the mere self and recognising the true identity with the infinite One. Although the drop loses itself in the ocean, it does not become nothing, but takes upon itself the attributes and vastness of the ocean. (When Eckhart uses the drop-into-the-ocean analogy, he says "As the drop becomes the ocean," 34).
As we pointed out in the last chapter, the Knower of the One sees the One, 'I', as being everywhere - having first found the One within, and realising that the 'I' really is, then he sees the 'I' or the One without as well.
I am this universe. Nothing is, but I am. I dwell within; I am without. I am before and behind. I am in the south and I am in the north. I am above and I am below. (Shankara) 35
Behold the world entirely comprised in yourself. (Shabistari) 36
When a man sees All in all, then a man stands beyond mere understanding. (Eckhart) 37
The truly spiritual man is he … that sees all things in God. (Law) 38
And he dwells in God, and yet goes forth towards all creatures in universal Love, in virtue and in justice. And this is the supreme summit of the inward life. (Ruysbroeck) 39
Persons and objects seem to be distinct from each other. Nevertheless, he regards everything from the standpoint of equality, for he sees the One in all. That is how you may know the man who is free. (Shankara) 40
As a post-script to this chapter, we must briefly consider what William James called 'medical materialism' He says: Medical materialism finishes up St. Paul by calling his vision on the road to Damascus a discharging lesion of the occipital cortex, he being an epileptic. It snuffs out St. Theresa as a hysteric, St. Francis of Assisi as a hereditary degenerate. George Fox's discontent with the shams of his age, and his pining for spiritual veracity, it treats as a symptom of a disordered colon. Carlyle's organtones of misery it accounts for by gastro-duodenal catarrh … 41
In other words 'medical materialism' seeks to explain all 'higher' or superconscious experiences and understandings in physiological or psychological terms. As was mentioned in Chapter 9, our mental states can all be affected by external causes (public or private), and this has led to mystical experiences being variously explained as the outcome of manic-depression, schizophrenia, epilepsy, migraine, intoxication, fever and hysteria.42 However, the experiences that these disorders attempt to explain are all experiences, ie they belong to the diverse. The experiences are usually hallucinations or visions, and all involve separateness, change and duality - ie difference. So while the disorders can possibly explain many 'mystical' states, they cannot explain what we have termed Knowing, which is really a 'non-experience' of being or union, and cannot be caused by any other activity in the diverse.
Others tend to explain 'higher' experiences as being caused by and having a psychological function, such as 'self-integration' or creativity.43 While again this may be true of many mystical states, since the mind or self is external and belongs to the diverse, its activities cannot cause Knowing.
We can make two points here. First, although the Knower of the One has transcended diversity, while in a body he obviously has to act physically by accepting at least physical difference, since otherwise action would be impossible as we have seen (Chapters 2 and 11). But by virtue of his Knowing Oneness to be more 'real' than diversity, his body will be in a pure and harmonious state, since there will be no more diversity in it than is necessary for physical and bodily existence. Thus to show that the bodily state of a Knower of the One is different from others is not a victory for the materialists who try to explain the Knowing of the Godhead as caused by physiological states.
The second point is that it cannot be denied that many external methods and experiences (such as mutual hypnosis 44, drugs, neurophysical procedures, religious rituals and some meditational techniques do produce much that is beneficial in alleviating mental illness 45, lessening stress and providing calmness and tranquillity, even to the extent of being physiologically demonstrated.46 But the fact remains that any peace based upon external causes is peace and not Peace that is, it still belongs to the diverse and is thus but part of the general difference and conflict which we have termed Unpeace.
In this chapter we looked briefly at what we mean by 'Knowing', that process by which we find the One. The Knowers fully substantiate our earlier conclusions that Knowing is not intellectual and discursive knowing, which can only tell us what the One is not. From Chapter 10 we see that the 'I' and the non-differentiated One are the same, from which it follows that to know the One as One, we must look within. In Knowing the One, we recognise 'I' to be 'I' and so Knowing is really a merging or 'being' the One or God-head. This union does not mean we are then conscious of nothing, but rather become conscious of everything, leading to see 'I' as all, and so Loving all. We concluded by pointing out that, by definition of 'Knowing' all attempts to explain its cause physiologically, psychologically or from any external technique or discipline were fruitless.
13 - One Into Two
In this chapter we will deal with the paradox mentioned earlier - namely that of the One and the diverse (the 'Two'). The paradox is this: if the One by virtue of possessing no separateness is everywhere, then there can be no room anywhere for difference or diversity, since difference cannot exist in the One. Thus we are forced to conclude that the diverse does not exist!
Things that are not unchangeable, are not at all. (Augustine) 1
There is but one Reality - changeless, formless and absolute. How can it be divided? (Shankara) 2
Yet we see diversity, difference and change all around us, and all our actions are based, as we have seen, on the fact that we observe the diverse to exist.
The key to resolving the paradox lies in recognising that while we have assumed the One to exist, we have not, anywhere in this book, assumed that the diverse exists. Parts One and Two were based on the fact that we experience diversity and difference - that is, that we see difference to exist - but it has never been claimed that the diverse actually does exist.
The fact that the diverse appears real and yet that common sense logic tells us it cannot exist if we accept the existence of the One, has led to what has been called the 'doctrine of illusion'. This holds that basically the diverse does not exist, and hence its seeming to exist is like a dream, mirage or illusion. In Hindu terminology it is called 'maya' ie magic.
But while we can explain away the diverse by saying blandly that it does not exist, this is not very helpful. After all, its simply seeming to exist is enough to cause all the various forms of Unpeace. As we have seen. In other words, for us the diverse is real, it does exist, and no amount of philosophising will make it go away.
Hence we are led into a dichotomy, and we have to admit that the diverse both exists and not exists. This of course goes against the duality of 'is and 'is not' mentioned in Chapter 4 - in other words it seems nonsense to say that the diverse does exist and at the same time that it does not exist! Yet in Chapter 7 we pointed out that modern physics had shown that we have to take this position sometimes; we gave the example of having to say an electron both is and is not a particle. So if we are forced to hold that some external objects, ie parts of the diverse both exist and not exist (eg the electron as a particle), then surely it is not too fanciful to say that the diverse as a whole can both exist and not exist.
Of course we cannot comprehend this with the intellect, since the intellect can only deal with difference, and is silent when it comes to difference being transcended, as is the case here - namely the duality of is-or-is-not breaking down.
Another way of dealing with the dichotomy is to say that the diverse exists but not in the same way as the One, as we mentioned in Chapter 11. The existence of the One is more 'real' since it exists forever whereas the hallmark of an external object belonging to the diverse is that its existence is limited and finite. Thus we can say that the One has permanence and absolute existence, and external objects have transient and relative existence (which is technically called 'subsistence' in philosopher's jargon).
This does not of course solve the problem; it merely restates it in a slightly different way. The problem itself still remains, in that we have to conceive of the world of difference as being ' less real ' than the One, ie illusory.
The illusory nature of the diverse is admirably illustrated in both common experience and in modern science. Plato gave the example of a stick in water. If I have a straight stick, and I place it at an angle half in water, then it appears bent. But why should I say that it is a straight stick which appears bent in water? Why not say it is a bent stick which appears straight in air? In other words, we cannot claim that whatever we experience through our senses is 'real'. If we view the objects against another background, then it appears something else. Which viewpoint is 'real'? In Chapter 9 we gave some examples of objects changing according to how we view them. And since one definition of 'illusion' is something that appears different from different viewpoints, we can then legitimately hold that this world of difference is illusion.
In Chapters, 2 and 3 we showed that modern physics tells us that what we see is not 'really' what it is. Examples were given of a piece of paper or a glass of water - common objects which science says are composed of atoms. These atoms are very far apart from each other, with just empty space between them, so that in fact 'solid' objects are very far from being solid. Even the atoms themselves are not solid, but consist of the tiny nucleus around which the even smaller electrons orbit; thus most of the volume of the atom itself is empty space. On investigating further, physics finds that it is impossible even in theory (let alone in practice) to pin down these subatomic particles themselves to any position. In fact, it makes most sense to regard them not as particles at all but as waves. Alternatively, we can consider them as just tightly curved space. (Geometrodynamics, Chapter 8). So where has the 'solid' matter of our senses gone?
Another example of the 'illusion' and relative existence of the diverse is contained in Einstein's Special Theory of which in Chapter 7 we promised a future discussion of. This theory was put forward by Einstein in 1905, and although as its name implies it is just a special case of the General Theory of Relativity (mentioned in Chapter 8), it is unlike the General Theory in that it has been of immense value to physicists, and has had an enormous amount of experimental evidence to support it.
The theory says, basically, that everything is relative.4 It also says that the speed of light in a vacuum always appears the same 5, and it is a measure of Einstein's genius that from these two simple principles he deduced a theory which revolutionised our ideas of time and space.
To look at some results of this theory, suppose we are standing on a station platform, watching a train go by. Now
the Special Theory of Relativity says that, amongst other things, we will observe the moving train to be heavier than it is, and we will also observe the train to be shorter than it really is. In actual fact, these effects are only noticeable if the speed of the train is comparable to the speed of light. The speed of light is approximately 136,000 miles per second which is very fast. For instance, at this speed a light beam will go more than seven times round the earth's equator in one second. So at the speed trains move, these effects are completely unnoticeable, but that does not mean they do not exist. If the train were able to go as fast as we wish, then we would find (according to Special Relativity) that the faster it went the heavier and shorter it would be, until at the speed of light, its length would be zero (so it would not exist) yet it would be infinitely heavy.
This would explain how someone can be six foot tall and five foot tall, which was an example (quoted in Chapter 3) of the breaking down of the is-or-is-not duality. When the train is stationary at the station, we can see a six foot man get in, but when the train is moving we will, under certain circumstances, see him as being five foot. (The "certain circumstances" are that the man would have to be lying down in the carriage parallel to the train's motion, and the train would have to be going at half the speed of light, or 335 million mph)
Apart from changes in the train's weight and length, we (on the station platform) would also observe time to go slower on the train. This leads to a famous paradox called the "twin paradox". Suppose two twins are on the station, and one then boards the train. This train then moves off and goes on a round trip, returning again to the station. Now while it was moving, the twin on the platform observes the time on the train to go slower than the time on the station, and so when the train stops his brother (who was on the train) will actually be younger than him. The fact that two people can be the same age at one time and yet different ages at another time goes completely against common-sense. Yet we are forced to accept it as true. Of course, in practice trains move much too slowly for this time difference to be any more than the minutest fraction of a second; but if ever we develop rockets that can go at the appropriate fantastic speeds, and astronauts go on round trips to the stars, they will return to earth to find everybody much older. Time will have gone much slower for the astronauts; if their Journey takes 40 years by earth's time, perhaps to the astronauts it will have only taken one year. They will return as young men, only to find their wives old women and their children (and perhaps grand-children) older than them. Crazy? Maybe, but true.
This effect, along with the distortion in length and increase in weight mentioned previously, have all been found to actually happen. Experiments have been done with atomic particles, which can be made to move at speeds comparable to the speed of light,6 and also with fantastically accurate atomic clocks in commercial planes.7 These experiments have shown quite conclusively that the above effects actually happen. Special Relativity is correct; the world as we see it with common-sense background is as illusory and relative as a dream!
Your vision is a dream,
All you are seeing is a mirage. (Shabistari) 8
You must know that maya and all its effects … are other than the 'I'. All are unreal, like a mirage in the desert. (Shankara) 9
Objects that come into being and are capable of being made the objects of knowledge are as unreal as those known in a dream. (Shankara) 10
Although the paradox as stated at the beginning of this chapter is partially resolved by accepting the diverse to be 'illusion' (as we have defined it), there is still a profound problem. For given that the diverse is illusion, it is nevertheless an illusion which is real.
People … neglect the reality of the illusory world. (Huang Po) 11
In other words, our awareness of it causes us Unpeace, as we have mentioned before, and so we have to explain its apparent existence. The question is how can the diverse exist (or appear to exist) and how could it have begun? (We will consider why it exists later). How can the One, which is in all places and infinite, contain within itself the world of difference and change, when it (the One) is completely non-differentiated and changeless? To say the diverse is illusory only begs the question: how can the changeless One admit separate and changeable beings (us) to perceive the illusion?
As we can expect from the discussions on metaphysics in Chapters 7 and 8, the answer is essentially unknowable by the intellect or with discursive thought. For to understand how the diverse can be caused, we have to transcend it and as soon as we do that then it vanishes, for in the non-diverse (the One) diversity does not exist. So how can we find the cause of a non-existent effect? If we do not accept this, and assert that the diverse does exist (however illusory and relative its existence may be), then we are in equal trouble, for we then have to hold that the One contains within itself the possibility of its own denial. That is, the One, being a sort of infinite All-Possibility, must have among all possibilities the possibility of the impossible; this 'impossible' must of course be unreal and non-existent with respect to the One, even though it is real and exists on its own level.
This last paragraph is probably the nearest the intellect can ever get to explaining how there can be a relationship between the One and the diverse. In the rest of this chapter we will assume that such a relationship does exist - that is, we will assume that the One exists, that the diverse appears to exist, and that the latter is related to or reflected in the former somehow.
The mirage of the world is reflected in the One like a city in the mirror. (Shankara) 12
Eternal and temporal are not separate from another. For in that Existence this non-existence has its existence. (Shabistari)13
(The One and the diverse are) fused but not confused. (Eckhart) 14
Given that the question "how can the diverse exist?" is unanswerable by the intellect, we can nevertheless attempt to answer the slightly amended question "how does the diverse exist?" (In case the reader thinks that all this is mere theory, we must reaffirm that this book is practical, and to deal with the raw facts of suffering, pain and Unpeace. Having shown that Unpeace is caused by our perceiving difference everywhere, we are now investigating how it is that we do perceive difference, with a view to thus finding the solution - Peace.)
How the diverse actually does exist (for us) is easier to grasp with the intellect than the question how can the diverse exist, though we will find that in the end we are still faced with the latter question. Nevertheless, we will continue undaunted.
Undoubtedly the most coherent and consistent answer to the former question was given by the Indian philosopher Shankara; but before we consider his philosophy we will first look at the two most famous of the European philosophers - Plato and Kant.
Plato has been mentioned briefly before in this book. Basically, he considered that the 'real' and permanent world is the world of 'Ideas' or 'Forms' (not to be confused with our own 'ideas' which are but part of the private world and hence changeable and impermanent). These Forms or Ideas are the archetypes, as it were, for this world of difference that we experience; that is, qualities in the diverse (eg triangularity, circularity, brownness etc) are but reflections of the perfect Triangle, Circle and Brown colour which exist in the world of Ideas. The diverse, however, can only support or sustain these Ideas for finite periods of time, so the visible world of difference is in a continual state of flux and change. Thus Plato held that anything we learn from the external world is uncertain and imperfect, and to obtain certain knowledge we have to find the world of Ideas, which in fact somehow exists inside us. The method of finding this is first of all the study of mathematics, followed by the 'dialectic'. What exactly the dialectic is, is a question of considerable disagreement amongst philosophers. It is sometimes held to be just intellectual argument, or a sort of reasoning without premises, though whether 'reasoning' meant to Plato what it means to us is unclear - for instance he talks about "the light of reason", "pure intelligence" and "the eye of the soul".15
Although Plato's philosophy contains the germ of Shankara's explanation, it is obviously unsatisfactory as it stands. For instance, the world of Ideas, while perhaps unchangeable certainly contains separateness and multiplicity - there are obviously as many Ideas or Forms as there are 'things' in this external world - so it is not the One.
Plato's explanation was considerably improved upon by Kant, with whom we dealt briefly in Chapter 7. The reader will remember that Kant held the 'real' world, which he called the 'noumenal world', cannot be known by us either with senses or with reasoning. What in fact we actually see and experience is the 'phenomenal world', which is the noumenal world sort of distorted and shaped by certain inherent conditions in our minds, called 'forms of intuition' and 'categories'.
Shankara's explanation is remarkably like Kant's in broad outline, though the intricate reasoning of both men differs somewhat, but that will not concern us. Shankara's philosophy is technically known as 'Advaita Vedanta'.16 'Vedanta' means the 'end' or 'essence' of the Vedas, the earliest Indian scriptures - 'Ved' itself meaning 'knowing'. 'A-dvaita' means non-dualism', so that Advaita Vedanta means the essence of knowing non-dualism, or Knowing the One.
Shankara can be said, in fact, to have done the same thing for the Vedanta as St. Thomas Aquinas did for Christianity. For after a thousand years, the Christian philosophy was falling apart under powerful criticism, so the Pope summoned St. Thomas from a life of solitude to defend orthodoxy. This he did remarkably successfully, sustaining Christian dogma by forceful yet subtle rational argument. In the same way, over a period of over a thousand years the same thing was happening to Vedanta, and although Shankara preferred a hermit life, he was obliged to come out of solitude and put Advaita Vedanta in a firm and coherent form.
There is however, one important difference. St. Thomas, though having profound intellectual understanding of Christian dogma, was perhaps not a Knower of God or the One (as we have been using the term) while doing his writing. A few months before his death he was praying when he heard the words "Thomas, you have written well about me, what reward do you want?" St. Thomas replied, "none other than yourself, Lord." He afterwards refused to write any more, saying all the millions of words he had written seemed "like straw" compared to what he had seen.17 Shankara, on the other hand, was clearly a Knower of the One, and in writing his rational critiques of Knowing was thus forced to continually proclaim that the One could never be Known through writing or any discursive method. All Knowers of the One are in this position - they realise the inaptitude of discursive means (including writing and speech) for realising and communicating the One, yet they are bound by their infinite Love to help others still bound to the diverse, and are thus compelled to communicate discursively in speaking and writing.
With this preliminary preamble, we will now consider the answer to the question 'How does the diverse appear to exist?' as expressed by Shankara. Basically, Shankara maintained that the diverse is a super imposition upon the One, rather as a film show exists by virtue of light patterns being superimposed on a screen. Thus the One remains eternally infinite and non-differentiated, and is not transformed into the diverse, in the same way that the white changeless cinema screen remains white and changeless even though it supports colour and movement when a film is projected onto it.
Shankara's favourite analogy for the theory of superimposition (technically "vivatavada") is the famous snake-and-rope analogy, where a man sees a coil of rope in the twilight, and thinks it to be a snake. The rope is a rope, there is no doubt of that; but the man superimposes upon it the idea of a snake, and thus while it is in fact a rope, it appears to be a snake. As far as the man is concerned, the snake exists. From his point, of view it is real, and so is the fear it causes. But when he turns the light on, he then sees the rope as it 'really' is, and of course his fear vanishes with this 'true' knowledge. But before the light is turned on, the snake both exists and not exists in exactly the same way as the diverse both exists and not exits to our point of view.
Thus in order to realise that this world of difference is nothing other than a misreading of the One, we have to 'turn the light on', and so 'see' the One as it is, and realise that it was just our ignorance which superimposed the idea of difference onto it.
Although this is an attractive explanation, there are some obvious objections which will have to be met. Firstly, in the above example, the rope was an external object which was perceived (albeit mistakenly), but the One cannot even be conceived, let alone perceived. How can we superimpose the idea of an external object (eg the snake) upon something we do not perceive? The answer is that the rope need never be perceived as a rope. We can see it as a snake by superimposing the snake-idea onto it, and can then leave without ever turning the light on and realising that in fact we were looking at a rope. In the same way, although we do not perceive the One (or Kant's 'noumenal world') as the One, we can still project, as it were, the diverse 'onto' it. Shankara uses the illustration that we superimpose blueness onto the sky, even though the sky, as such, is not an object of sense perception. In the same way we still see the cinema screen as containing colour and movement even though we do not perceive the essential whiteness and stillness which is the screen's true nature.
A second, and more formidable, objection to the above analogy is that in order to project a snake-idea onto the rope, we must have seen a 'real' snake somewhere before, in order to be able to imagine one. So if we are to explain the diverse by saying we superimpose a sort of diverse-idea onto the One, then that implies we must have a memory of the diverse got from somewhere else. Shankara recognises this objection and in order to meet it has to divide the world of difference into the public world (Sanskrit 'vyavahorika') and the private world ('pratibhasika'). Now as far as the private 'objects' we experience are concerned there is no problem. For our thoughts and ideas can all be conditioned by public objects, and the private backgrounds we set up can be explained (in theory at least) in terms of public objects and events such as our parent's genes, our upbringing, culture etc or the more temporary backgrounds in terms of sense data (eg light waves) and the neural impulses they produce. This was dealt with in Chapter 9. In this way the mistaking of the rope for a snake is quite realistic and plausible, since it is a private illusion.
But the public part of the diverse cannot be the illusion or dream of each particular individual, otherwise we would each 'dream' a different world, which is not the case. Back in Chapter 4 we defined the public world to be that which we can in principle experience; and while our experiencing of the public world is private, we can only communicate and live together as human beings by assuming that much of what I see and experience is very similar to what you see and experience, as Wittgenstein showed clearly. When you see a tree, the image in your mind is, I must assume, more or less what is in my mind when I see the tree - in other words we must assume that there is a public world, common to all sentient creatures.
So in order to explain the public illusion or 'universal dream', Shankara had to maintain that there is a kind of Universal Man (Sanskrit 'Viraj') who dreams the public dream, and we dream our private dreams with him and in him. This 'Universal Man' is very like Bishop Berkeley's 'God', who in Berkeley's theory of 'immaterialism' is always perceiving the world to keep it appearing 'real' and public. However, we define the concept of 'God' in the next subsection in a different way to this, and rather than confuse the issue we will adopt a slightly different approach.
To have a 'Universal Man' dreaming or perceiving the public world to make it public, is equivalent to maintaining that we have within us some 'super-backgrounds', which are backgrounds common to us all and which are more basic than the ordinary private background set up by external objects that we have considered previously. This brings up back to Kant, who held that in our non-conscious mind each and every one of us in fact possesses these utterly fundamental super-backgrounds, which must make us all experience the noumenal world or the One in basically the same kind of way. Because these same backgrounds are in all of us, then we must all see the same sort of public world, though we then establish our own backgrounds of the type we considered in Chapter 9 and which give rise to our different interpretations of the public world.
We can explain how we all possess these same super-backgrounds by borrowing Jung's idea of the 'collective unconscious' - that is the idea that we all have a common reservoir of non-conscious mind. However, it must be pointed out that Jung thought of the 'collective unconscious' as almost synonymous with what we have termed the 'I', whereas here it is considered to be part of the self, utterly different from the 'I'. (Note that from our original definition in Chapter 4 the collective unconscious must be private, since it cannot be experienced, and so it is part of the self.) The germ of this idea is present in the school of Psychology of Being, where the super-background would be situated in that part of the self called 'instinctoid'.18
As we mentioned, it is not very important whether we consider the public world to be caused directly by a super-conscious 'Universal Man' or by our own consciousness via a 'collective unconscious' (which is as Jung held common not only to men but to all lower forms of consciousness). The similarity between the two explanations will become more obvious in this and the next chapter.
Kant recognised two kinds of these fundamental super backgrounds ('forms of intuition' and 'categories'), though in our mode there will have to be more, since Kant's noumenal world is not synonymous with the One. In other words, the essential qualities Kant attributed to the noumenal world we have to attribute to super-backgrounds (in addition to what Kant attributed to his super-backgrounds anyway), since the One (unlike the noumenal world) cannot be said to have any positive qualities. Nevertheless, in our model the super-backgrounds contained in the self would obviously include Kant's 'Forms of intuition' and 'categories'. The 'categories' are twelve concepts which we all instinctively possess, and which are applicable to whatever we experience. They are listed in the notes and will not detain us now.19 The 'forms of intuition' (German: 'Anschauung', literally 'looking at') contain the two super-backgrounds of space and time, and they ensure that whatever we experience or think about must always be in spatial and temporal terms. This brings us back to the notion of superspace mentioned in Chapter 8, in that although we are always 'in' superspace we always view it as separated out into time and 3-d space, which is just what Kant was saying two hundred years ago (although he called superspace the 'noumenal world').
Now because superspace is just an unimaginable unity in its own right, it can be likened to the One itself; and the fact that when viewed against the super-backgrounds of 'forms of intuition' it appears as space and time is just another way of saying that the diverse is characterised by separateness and change. For separateness must imply 3-d space, and vice versa; similarly change must imply time, and vice versa. But of course in superspace as superspace there is no time and 3-d space as such, so that in superspace there can be no separateness and no change, as in the One.
We can now see also that the diverse as a principle is beginningless and endless (although of course it can be 'ended' at any time for the individual by Knowing the One). For when the diverse 'originated', then time also originated, so that there was no time 'before' the diverse (ie in superspace) in other words it cannot have had a beginning. Similarly, it cannot have an end in time, for when it ends time also ends.
Thou (O man) beganest as time began, but as time was in eternity before it became days and years, so thou wast in God before thou wast brought into the creation: and as time is neither a part of eternity, nor broken off from it, yet come out of it; so thou art not a part of God nor broken off from Him, yet born out of him. (Law) 20
Thus the only way to escape the diverse is for us to go beyond space and time altogether, which means go back to superspace. And to return back to superspace physically via a black hole would be rather disastrous, so the Knowers of the One recommend that we a return in a traditional way via Knowing or uniting with the 'I'. For then we will have gone beyond all backgrounds, since all, backgrounds originate in the self or ego. The reader will remember that in Chapter 9 we saw that those backgrounds caused by external objects were in the mind or self, and the super-backgrounds common to us all we have just been considering are also in the self (the 'collective unconscious' part), so that only in bypassing self altogether can we be free of all backgrounds, and the only 'place' free completely of self is the 'I'.
Thus we can see that the ultimate cause of our bondage to the diverse, the world of difference, time, space and illusion, is the fact that we identify with the self (hence our additionally calling it 'ego') rather than with the 'I'. For the instant we think "I am the ego or self," then we have to see the One with the backgrounds of diversity (contained in the ego or self) superimposed upon it.
It is for this reason that this subsection is entitled "delusion". For while 'illusion' and 'delusion' mean almost the same thing, ie something appearing not as it 'really' is, illusion implies that the fault lies in the thing itself, while 'delusion' implies that the fault lies in the viewing mechanism of the observer - the self. So in view of the foregoing discussion, we can describe the diverse as delusion rather than illusion.
To argue any further back to a more 'ultimate' cause of the delusion, ie to attempt to find the cause of identifying with the self or the cause of the super-background, is equivalent to asking how the relationship between the One and the diverse can exist, which we saw in the section before is impossible to answer discursively. We can only say that the diverse, the self (which is the relationship) and the One are in 'reality' not different, but are all One.!
This is the final declaration of Vedanta: the One is all this universe and every creature. (Shankara) 21
(The diverse is) the consequence of the One's awareness of the diversified world-picture painted by itself on the vast canvas of itself. (Shankara) 22
The diverse does not exist apart from the 'I'. Our perception of it as having an independent existence is false, like our perception of blueness in the sky. How can a superimposed attribute have any existence, apart from its substratum? It is only our delusion which causes this misconception of the underlying reality. (Shankara) 23
It is our delusion which superimposes the diverse upon the One. But the wise know that this diverse has no separate reality. It is identical with the One, its ground. The rope may appear to be a snake, but the apparent difference between rope and snake only lasts as long as delusion persists. (Shankara) 24
Form is a revelation of Essence. (Eckhart) 25
Before we finish with the 'how' questions, there are two loose ends to tie up. The first is concerned with the concept of God.
In chapter 11 we pointed out that Eckhart and Ruysbroek use the term 'Godhead' as being synonymous with the One, and the word 'God' they use slightly differently. It is unfortunate that often they (particularly Eckhart) used the word 'God' both to mean the Godhead and this slightly different meeting. The reader can take it that the word 'God' used anywhere before this subsection means Godhead or the non-differentiated One; in this subsection and at all times afterwards we will use it exclusively for the meaning we will now describe.
The fact is that whatever we say or however cleverly we philosophise, there is always as we have shown this insurmountable problem: how can the One or the Godhead, being completely beyond separateness and change and thus action, cause any form of non-difference (such as self) to exist? Thus in deference to the human intellect, the Knowers of the One often use another word to describe the creative principle that is, 'God'. (Plato used the term 'demiurge').
God can be thought of as the power of the Godhead to create the diverse and the self (with its super-backgrounds); or the power of actualising the 'possibility' of the impossible' mentioned earlier. (So that in fact God can always do the work of Shankara's 'Universal Man' or Berkeley's 'God' if the 'collective unconscious' hypothesis fails.) Alternatively, God can be thought of as the Godhead becoming while the Godhead is itself being. God is the Godhead personified, with attributes; the creator, preserver and destroyer of this world. The One as Godhead cannot be personified, has no attribute, and performs no action. It is static, yet has the power to become dynamic while remaining utterly still - that power we term God. So from our point of view while immersed in the diverse, God and Godhead are different and distinct.
God and Godhead are as distinct as heaven and earth. (Eckhart) 25
There is a distinction and differentiation, according to our reason, between God and Godhead, between action and rest. (Ruysbroeck) 26
The Godhead gave all things up to God; it is as poor, as naked and as idle as though it were not; it has not, wills not, wants not, works not, gets not. (Eckhart) 27
But of course in essence, God and Godhead are not, can not, be separated, any more than fire and its power to burn can be separated. The Godhead only appears as God when viewed from the point of view of the diverse, in other words God (as God) has the same degree of reality as the diverse has, and is in fact caused by our limited and diversified intellect. Thus we can get the astonishing declaration:
I am the cause that God is God. (Eckhart) 28
As long as we are bound by the world of difference and the diverse we can do no better than look to the 'ruler' of the diverse, which is God. God is the highest the human mind can grasp and the human heart can love, and so while we still identify with the ego or self, then:
It is God who has the treasure and the bride in him, the Godhead is as void as though it were not. (Eckhart) 29
But devotion to God is not the ultimate. To Know the One is to go beyond God and 'realise' the infinite Godhead, wherein all distinction vanishes. Thus in merging with the 'I' or One, Eckhart can contradict the last quote completely, and say:
I am become so rich that God is not sufficient for me, so far as he is only God. (Eckhart) 30
iii) Good and Bad
The second 'loose end' concerns the good/bad duality. That we are conditioned to and bound by the diverse and think ourselves distinct from the One can be described as illusion (Vedanta), ignorance (Buddhism), a state of fall (Judeo-Christianity), disequilibrium (Taoism) or rebellion (Islam). All these descriptions carry the sense that distinction from the One is bad; indeed, we came to this conclusion in Chapter 11, where we pointed out than an action or thought which accentuated this distinction was 'bad' and one which went towards loving it was 'good'. This is because having 'fallen' into or become deluded by the diverse, we are continually struggling to find again the One. The whole pattern and arrangement of the cosmos is geared to us being continually born until we merge back into the Godhead, where both dying and being born no longer exist, and there is Peace. So from this point of view 'sin' or 'evil' is the attempting to hinder this process, which from our earlier discussion on the cause of the diverse is paramount to strengthening our identification with the self or ego.
Self is the root, the tree, and the branches of the evils of our fallen state. (Law) 31
The city of God is made by the love of God pushed to the contempt of self; the earthly city, by the love of self pushed to the contempt of God. (Augustine) 32
This ego is your enemy. It is like a thorn stuck in the throat of the eater. (Shankara) 33
See here the whole truth in short. All sin, death, damnation and hell is nothing else but the kingdom of self. (Law) 34
So in most higher systems of ethics, 'good' actions tend to be those which minimise the separateness engendered by self-identification; such as love for our fellow men, truthful and honest dealing, working for equal rights, equal justice and the abolition of the barriers of race, class and creed, etc 'Bad' actions or thoughts, on the contrary, are those which spring from selfish motives and tend to increase separateness, such as hate, anger, dishonesty etc
However, in order to avoid inconsistencies, we have to distinguish from what level we are viewing the situation. Up to now in this subsection we have been discussing good and bad from the viewpoint of the diverse. In the diverse, good and bad are real and exist, and we should act in a 'good' way and not 'bad'. This is because by acting 'badly', we increase the bondage to self, and thus become more involved in the diverse or world of difference, and so increase our Unpeace. The converse is that by 'good' actions and thoughts we tend to lessen bondage to self, decrease difference and so lessen Unpeace. Thus there is a kind of feedback mechanism whereby 'bad' actions tend to increase Unpeace and so make us less and less inclined to commit them; whereas 'good' actions lessen Unpeace and thus reinforce our tendency to perform them. This feedback mechanism is called 'karma' in Sanskrit, and can be crudely described as a rewards and punishment system.
The fact that over the period of one lifetime this feedback mechanism is often not very effective (ie people sometimes continually do bad and 'never seem to learn') has led to the idea of reincarnation. This is that when the body dies, the non-physical self or ego (with of course the 'I') takes another body, and while not consciously remembering its previous life, nevertheless carried with it the distilled essence of the previous life's experiences, and so the karma or feedback mechanism carried on uninterrupted by the change in body. It is not important to the main line of argument whether the reader accepts reincarnation or not, since this book is concerned with the ending of Unpeace and the finding of Peace now, ie in this lifetime. But we will just point out that it seems by far the most consistent and logical explanation of what happens after physical death. After all, everywhere in nature things are continually 'reincarnating' (eg vegetation dying in winter to be reborn in spring) and the 'law' of reincarnation is merely holding that a law applying to almost everything in nature applies likewise to the self. Anyway, we pointed out in Chapter 3 that we are continually being reincarnated in this life even. Our bodies are continually changing, losing tissue and rebuilding tissue out of fresh material - the body I have now is completely different in content from the one I had a few years ago.
Although 'good' and 'bad' are real enough from the point of view of the diverse, from the point of view of God, there is no 'bad', but only 'Good' (capital 'G'). For we can see that the whole feedback mechanism is Good in that it always tends to lessen diversity and Unpeace. The most 'bad' things which happen on the level of the diverse, while not' good', are nevertheless 'Good' in that they are links in the feedback mechanism or karma of the person (or people) concerned. They are generated by the person's past actions and are geared to steering him to the realisation that only in the non-differentiated Godhead will Peace be found. To be born a beggar, a king, an athlete or a helpless cripple is simply the consequence of our past lives, and whichever it is, it is Good, since it is an episode in the karmic school run by God, who has our best interests at heart.
So from the standpoint of the diverse, this world of difference is a bleak place, and God seems rather pitiless, intent, on driving us with blows like a herd of cows towards the One. But as soon as we realise that Peace lies in the Knowing of the One, and we begin consciously to want to know the 'I', then we can learn to see this world of difference in terms of Good, and not good-and-bad. That is to say, the diverse ceases to be a grim court of justice but becomes more a gymnasium, where the good and the bad, though still existing, become opportunities for exercising our spiritual muscles and can so help to lever us out of the diverse. The world is no longer an endlessly revolving wheel of Unpeace, but becomes a ladder which can be climbed to the One.
Having said that, we must now consider the question from the third level - that of the One. In the One or the Godhead, of course, there is no duality, so good-and-bad cannot exist; and equally, there are no qualities (they belong to God), so the One cannot be Good (or Bad), in addition to not being good-and-bad. Thus neither good nor bad, nor Good nor Bad can reach the One, which is another way of saying that we can never find the Godhead by good works or actions alone, however good (or Good). This is just saying that no amount of rearranging of difference (which is all actions, however good, can do) can take us beyond difference, which is the conclusion we came to back in Chapter 7. This appears to contradict what has been said previously in this sub-section, but the point is that actions alone cannot take us to the One. When we understand the process of non-discursive and non-diversified Knowing, then, and only then, can we take full advantage of discursive and diverse activities, such as good (or Good) actions or thoughts. But without knowing how to Know, then neither good nor Good can take us to the One. Note, however, that if we say blandly that good and bad do not really exist, or that if they do they can never take us to Peace, and we act on the strength of this, then we are committing a great error, since in the diverse they do exist and can help to take us towards Peace, and the feedback of karma will relentlessly penalise us if we ignore this fact.
Know that the discipline of outward acts, though it subdue nature, cannot kill it. (Eckhart) 35
As for those who see their salvation in outward practices, I do not say they will be lost, but they will get to God only through hot cleansing fires. (Eckhart) 36
From having considered the 'how?' of the One and the diverse, it is now natural to consider the 'Why'? But it should be obvious that if it is impossible to answer the question "How can the diverse exist?" then what hope have we of intellectually finding why it was originated at all? As to why the diverse exists, we have seen that the ultimate purpose of it is to lead us (or push us) away from self-identification towards union with our 'True' nature, the 'I' or Godhead. Every happening in the diverse has this end in view. This is picturesquely described by the Knowers of the One as God (or even Godhead) 'wanting' to Know himself, which he can only do by means of the 'I'.
God cannot know himself without me. (Eckhart) 37
God's delight is in the communication of Himself, Law) 38
He (God) proceeded out of the supreme (Godhead) in order to go in again accompanied by his bride (the 'I') and show her the hidden mystery of his secret Godhead, where he is at peace with himself and with all creatures, (Eckhart) 39
Of course to understand why God or Godhead 'wants' this is impossible. For to understand why the One created the diverse we have to go beyond the diverse, and of course when we do that all difference vanishes, including the duality of cause-and-effect. In other words, there is no cause for the diverse, since the non-diverse or 'uni-verse' is causeless.
To try and imagine the non-differentiated One as being deficient in some respects so that it has a 'wish' or a 'desire' to 'do' something (like Know itself) goes against all our definitions. All the Knowers of the One can finally say is, like Shakespeare, that it is all a play or a game (Sanskrit 'lila'), in that the One 'play' with itself.
All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players. (Shakespeare) 40
So this world has no substantial reality,
But exists as a shadowy pageant of play. (Shabistari) 41
What is willing in the Godhead? It is the Father watching the play of his own nature. What is this play? It is his eternal Son. There has always been this play going on in the Father-nature. Play and audience are the same… As it is written in the Book of Wisdom, 'prior to creatures, in the eternal now, I have played before the Father in his eternal stillness.' The Son has eternally been playing before the Father as the Father has before his Son. The playing of the twain is the Holy Ghost in whom they both disport themselves and he disports himself in both. Sport and players are the same. Their nature proceeding in itself. "God is a fountain flowing unto itself," as St. Dionysius says. (Eckhart) 42
This chapter is concerned with how and why the One can and does manifest diversity. By virtue of how we define the One and the diverse, we were led to consider the diverse as illusion, both common experience and modern physics (especially Special Relativity) illustrating the illusory nature of the world.
Then having shown that we could never understand discursively how the diverse could exist or appear to exist, we put forward an explanation of how it does appear to exist. This rested largely on Shankara and Kant and posited that we superimpose the diverse onto the One, or rather we observe the One against super-backgrounds in our non-conscious, which are common to us all and so ensure we all see the public world. These super-backgrounds are analogous to the ordinary private backgrounds we set up to condition our private worlds. Thus the diverse is better described as 'delusion' rather than 'illusion', it being caused by our identifying with the self, in which the backgrounds and super-backgrounds are contained.
Then we distinguished the terms 'God' and 'Godhead' and finished the 'How?' section by considering good and bad, showing that to Know the One, actions (good or bad) are by themselves insufficient.
We finally considered briefly the diverse was caused, and found that this was intellectually unanswerable, and we can only talk in terms of the One 'wanting' to Know itself, or playing a cosmic game.
14 - Two Into One
Having considered how and why the One becomes or appears to become the diverse ('turning into two'), we will now consider how difference ('making two') can return to the Uni-verse ('turning into One'). As far as practical matters go, we must accept that for us the diverse exists, and that our seeing it everywhere and our being conditioned by it results in Unpeace.
Now as we indicated in Part Two, to look solely to any external methods or events for transcending difference is futile, since all external methods, objects and events belong to the diverse by definition, so they can only rearrange diversity and cannot go beyond it. To transcend difference we must know the One and as we have seen this must be a completely non-discursive procedure, and cannot depend upon any discursive method such as thinking, reasoning, talking, reading, good works, rituals or any physical or mental activity. When we know how to Know, as it were, then all these activities can be used to accelerate the Knowing of the One, as we mentioned in the last chapter; but looking to any discursive procedure alone or process of knowing (small 'k') for transcending the diverse is fruitless.
For he who seeks God under settled forms lays hold of the form while missing the God concealed in it. (Eckhart) 1
If you are attracted to forms, practices and meritorious performances, your way of thinking is false and quite incompatible with the Tao. (Huang Po) 2
By counting beads, repeating prayers,
And reading the Koran,
The heathen becomes not a Muslim (ie a Knower). (Shabistari) 3
Men may recite the scriptures and sacrifice to the Holy spirits, they may perform rituals and worship deities - but, until a man wakes to Knowing his identity with the 'I', liberation can never be obtained; no, not even at the end of many hundreds of ages. (Shankara) 4
Study of the scriptures is fruitless as long as the One has not been Known. And When the One has been Known, it is useless to read the scriptures. (Shankara) 5
God scorns to work among images. (Eckhart) 6
So how can we, then, Know the One? This is the form that our central question of human life has now taken. In Chapter 1 the question was put as "How to find Peace?" or "How to escape Unpeace?" and the argument so far has shown that Peace cannot be found anywhere in the diverse, and that the we must try and find a non-diversified One, which many witnesses claim exists but which cannot be known discursively - it must be known unitively.
While the Knower of the One lives in this world, and acts in it out of Love for others still bound by difference, his 'I' - identification rather than self-identification means he is unaffected by the difference - ie he is detached. But he is not detached in a callous way, as we pointed out in Chapter 11 - on the contrary, he works very hard for the happiness and Peace of others still attached to the suffering and Unpeace. What he is detached from is Unpeace itself; and obviously if one is detached from Unpeace, then one is 'in' Peace.
Be who would be serene and pure needs but one thing, detachment. (Eckhart) 7
There is nowhere perfect rest save in a heart detached. (Eckhart) 8
But of course while it is an excellent thing to try and cultivate detachment from Unpeace (which is what everyone is doing, consciously or unconsciously), nevertheless to use it as the means of Knowing the One is putting the cart before the horse. For we have found that by dealing in the diverse one can not transcend it. In other words, we have to first Know the One, then it will, follow automatically that we will be detached from Unpeace.
Now we have seen that, from the point of view of the Knowers of the One, the diverse does not 'really' exist - it is a dream. So to Know the One we have to do nothing more than just wake up!
Like an image in a dream, the world is troubled by love, hatred and other poisons. So long as the dream lasts, the image appears to be real; but on awakening it vanishes. (Shankara) 9
And how do we 'wake up'? Well, the source of our dream and delusion lies in the self. By being attached to and identifying with self, that is, in thinking "I am my-self" then the 'I' must be projected, as it were, through self. And thus the super-backgrounds and ordinary backgrounds which exist in the self must be superimposed onto the changeless and formless One, thereby making it appear to possess change and form - i.e, become diversified.
The 'projection' of the 'I' is possibly best described as 'Pure Consciousness', that by which we are able to be aware. Note though, that since we cannot think of or externalise Pure Consciousness (as we can our states of consciousness) it is non-external, and thus belongs to the non-differentiated One and so is identical with the 'I'. In fact, it is a term which we use as a crutch to think about the unthinkable; that which is aware (the 'I') and that by which the 'I' is aware (Pure Consciousness) are both identical, being but different intellectual concepts of the One or Godhead. The Knower of the One recognises that not only are the 'I' and Pure Consciousness both the non-differentiated One, but also that which he is aware of - ie the object of his awareness. Of course to those bound by the diverse, the object of awareness (whether public or private) is external and so in difference, since the Pure Consciousness shining, as it were, through the self is filtered through the backgrounds contained in the self and so illuminates the One as diverse. (The undesirability of this is aptly illustrated by the quotes in Chapter 13.) Thus in order to wake up from the delusion and to stop seeing the apparent world of difference as diverse, then we must be free from the tyranny of self.
In the empty heart, void of self,
Can be heard the echoing cry
'I am the truth'. (Shabistari) 10
Renunciation of self-will for the will of God is before all things needful for all men who wish to be saved. (Ruysbroeck)11
If we are lost to ourselves - God is our own. (Ruysbroeck) 12
… dying to self,
You will be freed from the spell of self. (Shabistari) 13
This getting rid of self can be very painful, since we so usually identify/completely with it, thinking "I am myself" rather than "I am 'I'". Thus losing self is often compared to death - the 'dying to self' of the last quote, or the 'ego-death'. For in order to be born into a new life, into union with the One or Pure Consciousness, we have to 'die' to our old life of self-identification.
The kingdom of God is for none but the thoroughly dead. (Eckhart) 14
Die you must to all and everything that you have worked or done under any other spirit but that of meekness, humility and true resignation to God. (Law) 15
One must be dead to see God. (Eckhart) 16
The death spoken about is clearly not the death of the body, for that leaves the self free to take another body; it is the death of self which is meant.
The dead who have died in the Godhead are beyond our ken, like the dead are who die here to the body. That (ie the former) death is the soul's eternal quest. (Eckhart) 17
But of course we have still not really answered the problem 'How to Know the One?" practically, because while the solution may be that we must die to our-selves, the question is obviously how to die to ourselves. Now the answer to this question has taken many forms, from self-torture such as fasting, whipping or wearing hair-shirts etc to assume grovelling humility. While many attempts to be free from the tyranny of the self or ego are obviously praiseworthy, it nevertheless remains that the diverse can never be transcended by rearrangement of diversity, ie by external activities, whether public or private. While the more superficial backgrounds in the self can be altered by external activities (as was shown in Chapter 9) the more fundamental backgrounds, such as those due to hereditary, are hard, if not impossible, to change; and of course the super-backgrounds are completely impossible to alter by external means, since it is by their 'distortion' of the One that the external world of difference is caused to appear in the first place.
So if the self (or at least the heart of it where the super-backgrounds exist) cannot be changed, then to 'die to self' implies that the Pure Consciousness must bypass the self and its built-in backgrounds completely. But if the Pure Consciousness bypasses the self, then it must be always in the 'I' or the One, since by not shining through the self, the diverse is never 'created'. Thus in order to die to self, the Pure Consciousness must 'shine' in the 'I' which is another way of saying, according to our definitions, that we must Know the 'I' which is the conclusion we came to in Chapter 12 by another argument!
Thus if we Know the 'I', then self will automatically vanish, and this is the way the problem must be approached. To go the other way round and try to die to self in order to Know the 'I' is theoretically possible but practically impossible, To Know the 'I' is, as we saw in Chapter 12, equivalent to merging or being the One, when 'I', Pure Consciousness, the diverse and even the self lose all distinction and become the non-differentiated One or Godhead. To want to Know the 'I' or the One is to have a conscious desire for complete union and non-separateness.
Now of course when bound to the diverse, we cannot think of or comprehend the nature of 'I' or Pure Consciousness; the most we can do is to conceptualise the One in the form of God. Thus to have an intense desire to Know the 'I' can be expressed as 'loving God'. In Chapter 11 we used the word. 'Love' (big 'L') to describe the non-separation engendered by actually Knowing the One, while defining 'love' (small 'l') as an affinity dependent upon essential separateness. Thus the phrase 'love for God' lies somewhere in between love and Love, in that although based on separateness it is a desire to realise non-separateness - ie to Know the One.
Among all means to liberation, love for God is supreme. To seek earnestly after one's real nature is called 'love for God'. (Shankara) 18
Love Him that ye may progress. (Augustine) 19
What a man loves a man is. (Augustine) 20
If (a man) loves a stone he is that stone; if he loves a man, he is that man; if he loves God - nay, I durst not say more. (Eckhart) 21
While we can think of love for God as an intense desire to realise our essential unity with the One, the power which transforms that desire into fact can be termed the Grace of God. To put it crudely, Grace is the One in its non-differentiated aspect sort of percolating into the diverse. It is the actual means by which Pure Consciousness is diverted from filtering through self and so directed to the 'I'. To understand Grace is not possible with the intellect, since it is the One as One or Godhead, so of course it cannot be thought about. We can just naively describe it as a bit of Godhead seeping through into the world of difference.
Grace is a gift to be grateful for. (Both 'grace' and 'grateful' come from Latin, the same as 'gratuitous' = gift.) It is a gift since it has no human cause; it comes unsolicited from God. We are neither deserving nor undeserving of it - it just is and we can make use of it or not as we please. It is rather like a moving staircase which is continuously revolving and will continue to do so whether we use it to take us higher up the building or not.
We can understand the necessity for Grace even if we cannot understand Grace itself. For without Grace we would have to rely on our own actions and thoughts to Know the One, and since they are always external, diverse and discursive they can never on their own transcend the world of difference, as we have pointed out before.
This can also be explained in terms of Pure Consciousness. If we think of Pure Consciousness as filtering through the self, then we are only aware of it after it has passed through the super and ordinary private backgrounds in the self, thence it is no longer 'Pure' but manifests as our states or levels of consciousness. Thus we can only 'see' and control our 'stream' of consciousness after it has emerged from the backgrounds, and so we are powerless to divert the stream of pre-background Pure Consciousness from flowing through the self. Thus we (that is, 'I' identified with self) are hideously trapped 'downstream' from the background; and they prevent us from moving 'upstream' to the source of Pure Consciousness, the One or Godhead.
To try and 'empty the mind', ie remove the backgrounds, will be unsuccessful as we have seen, since the super-backgrounds and some of the more deep-rooted ordinary backgrounds are immovable. Earlier (Chapter 9) we asked the reader to accept that becoming unconscious was not an acceptable solution to the problem of Unpeace, and now we can see why this is so in our analogy. For by becoming unconscious (ie in deep sleep, drugs, hypnosis, etc) we are not stopping the stream of Pure Consciousness flowing through some of our backgrounds, for as psychology has shown, in all unconscious states there is much non-conscious activity going on in the mind.
Since we are powerless to prevent Pure Consciousness going through the self by any discursive or external means, the power which does prevent it is beyond our making - it is non-diversified Grace.
Union comes by Grace, the highest stooping down to inform the lowest. (Eckhart) 22
With reason it is called 'Grace' because it is bestowed 'gratis'. (Augustine) 23
Of yourself you can no more help yourself to light and comfort than you can create an angel. (Law)24
Grace does nothing but reform and convey into God(head). (Eckhart) 25
But while Grace is the power which "conveys into Godhead", the question still remains how we can harness that power. While the elevator is moving all the time, it will only take us up if we step on it.
The analogy of the moving staircase is not very accurate however, since the staircase takes us somewhere, but as far as Knowing the One is concerned, we are there already! For in reality, when the delusion is swept away, everything is Godhead - 'I', Pure Consciousness, the diverse, the self and its backgrounds and even the Knowing itself are all the indivisible One, as the quotes in chapter 12 illustrate. So not only are we all of the One in essence but we also 'really' Know the One, only we do not realise it. Thinking we do not Know the Godhead is called delusion, and to remove that delusion we need not 'Knowing' but what we can term 'Knowledge'. For it is only though 'Knowledge' that we can actualise the Knowing of the One. In fact, Knowledge can be said to be knowing how to Know; it is the method by which we can make use of Grace.
Thus we can see that Knowledge is very special, and has a sort of amphibious nature. It must be free to move unhindered between the 'water' of the diverse and the 'air' of the One. On one side it must belong to the world of difference, so that our minds can catch onto it; yet on the other side it must be non-differentiated, so that it can catch hold of Grace. It is the link that can bind the diverse mind to Grace, so enabling our union with the One to be realised.
Knowledge has been defined as that whereby "We can be what we are, and can stop being what we are not." 26
This chapter was concerned with how we can transcend the diverse and Know the One. We discounted knowing or any discursive procedure, as we had in Chapters 10 and 12. Detachment from the diverse, while theoretically possible, is in practice impossible - it is going the wrong way round, as is also dying to self. We must first consider how to Know the 'I'. To want to know the 'I' earnestly we called 'loving God', and the power which actualises that want we call the Grace of God. To harness the power of Grace we need 'Knowledge', which we define as knowing how to Know.
15 - Perfect Masters
Now while it may well be true that our only hope of fulfilling the purpose of our life and finding Peace is to Know the One, if we look at world history it is painfully clear that Knowing the One has not in general been a popular activity. In Part One we indicated in broad outline the almost continuous state of war man has been (and is) in, both in society and in himself over the last few thousand years. True Peace seems to have been obtained but rarely and Knowers of the One, such as our seven witnesses of the last few chapters, stand out as oases of Peace in a desert of tension, conflict and unrest. Of course, we cannot tell how many people quietly merged back into the One without condescending to leave any record of their having done so! But it seems that compared to the number of people who lived (and live) their lives in the Unpeace of diversity, the number who have transcended the diverse and found Peace is obviously minute.
Precious few succeed in living the contemplative life at all. (Eckhart) 1
For all cannot be mystics or grasp the mysteries. (Shabistari) 2
Liberation is not to be attained but through the merits of a billion births. (Shankara) 3
For God to be as present and to show as plainly to him at all times and in all company, that is for the expert. (Eckhart) 4
The reason, of course, is not hard to find. For while we are all being shoved and jostled towards wanting Peace by the karmic feedback system built into the cosmos, it is not all that often that we human beings consciously develop a distaste for the world of difference, and, recognising its only gift to be continual Unpeace, strive willingly to Know the One. But even with such recognition, the path to the One is nevertheless not easy. It is:
A narrow path betwixt hell's bottomless abyss,
Fine and sharp as a sword blade. (Shabistari) 5
This needs prodigiously hard work. (Eckhart) 6
I tell you that no-one can experience this birth (of God realised in the soul) without a mighty effort. (Eckhart) 7
In fact not only is walking the path hard work and difficult, it is in effect impossible without having that Knowledge of how to harness Grace, as we have seen. So the question now becomes "How to obtain Knowledge?"
Now as we look back over history, we see a curious phenomenon emerging. And this is that by and large Knowers of the One have appeared to come in clusters; and that furthermore the clusters have always centred round one of their number whom they obviously thought to be rather special. These 'special' Knowers have been given various names, such as: Saviour, Messiah, Avatar, Son of God, Satguru, Prophet, Spiritual Master, etc and they are held to be special in that they can impart to people that Knowledge of how to pick up on Grace and become Knowers of the One. Because the One is Perfect in that it is complete, whole and faultless, we shall call these special Knowers 'Perfect Masters', in the sense that they were held to be Masters of Perfection and could somehow impart to people the Knowledge of how to Know that Perfection (ie the One).
Many Perfect Masters came from India, such as Krishna, Rama, Gotama Buddha and Guru Nanak (the founder of the Sikhs), but by no means all of them. Examples of others include: Moses and Jesus Christ (Eastern Mediterranean), Mohammed (Arabia, 570-632), Lao Tzu (China, c 604-531 BC), Zoroaster (Persia, c 1,000 BC or c 550 BC), Shamsi Tabriz (Persia, 13th century AD), Quetzlcoatl (Mexico, 9th century), Maui (Maoris), Deganawida (Iroquois Indians) and the 'Ancient One' (Zulus). While it is clear that their outer appearance, speech and behaviour were all different, it nevertheless seems that they were all centre points for a group of Knowers. In fact, we hardly ever find a collection of Knowers of the One without there being a Perfect Master as the nucleus.
Wherever the Perfect Masters are dissimilar, it is in respect of outer activities and external events; in respect to the claims put forward by their followers that they could impart the Knowledge, they are all identical. And since the One is unchangeable then the Knowledge of how to Know the One must also be unchangeable, at least on that 'side' of it which is non-diverse and is thus able to 'hook' onto Grace. How the Perfect Masters adapted the other 'side' of Knowledge, that which is part of the diverse and which we can hang on to, is another question, which we will come to later.
Thus the thesis of this and the next chapter is that in essence the Perfect Masters of all times were the same - not merely in the fact that they all Knew the One, but in that they could (it was claimed) reveal the Knowledge of Perfection.
God is One, human nature is one, salvation is one and the way to it is one. (Law) 8
The very thing that is now called the Christian religion was not wanting amongst the Ancients from the beginning of the human race, until Christ came in the flesh, after which the true religion, which already existed, began to be called 'Christian'. (Augustine) 9
From Gotama Buddha down through the whole line of patriarchs to Bodidharma, none preached aught beside the One, otherwise known as the Sole Vehicle (ie Knowledge) of Liberation. (Huang Po) 10
By whomsoever truth is said, it is said through His teaching Who is the Truth. (Augustine) 11
Now when we come to examine what the Perfect Masters actually taught, we find quite a problem; and that is the lack of reliable evidence. In the case of the seven Knowers of the One we have been quoting in the last few chapters, we can be fairly sure that their writings as they have come down to us are pretty much as they wrote them; but in the case of those Knowers we are calling 'Perfect Masters', the situation is very different as we shall see in the next section. And anyway, even if we could be sure that what they did actually say was the same as that it is claimed they said (ie in scriptures), this would not help us to know the One, since we have already concluded that discursive means (including reading) are fruitless on their own for Knowing the One. Note, however, that we are not saying that to read scriptures or perform rites and rituals is useless. On the contrary, they can be very useful, containing much good advice, giving inspiration and pointing out how Knowledge can be obtained. What we hold in this chapter is, among other things, that Knowledge itself cannot be obtained from the writings of (or about) Perfect Masters.
Because of the fierce loyalties many people have for a particular Perfect Master and for their interpretation of the scriptures concerning him, we would be treading dangerous ground were an attempt to be made to argue from such scriptures. For most scriptures contain, at least on a literal level, many inconsistencies and downright contradictions. Thus to support a viewpoint by quotes from scriptures is to ask for a storm of quotes from the same scriptures in support of another, often directly opposite, viewpoint. So rather than argue that such-and-such a viewpoint is supported by Perfect Masters, we will assume the much more modest task of arguing merely that what follows is an interpretation of the work of Perfect Masters for which there is evidence in the scriptures pertaining to them. In other words, we shall use scriptural quotes more as illustrations of the viewpoint offered, rather than as foundations for it.
For anyway the fact remains that we can never be 100% certain that the Knowers we will consider were indeed Perfect Masters. All we can say is that other people at the time claim to have Known the One, and they claimed that they obtained the Knowledge of how to do so from a particular Knower - the Perfect Master. In other words, since a Perfect Master is recognised by the Knowledge he imparts, then we can only say with certainty that somebody was or is a Perfect Master if we become ourselves Knowers of the One through the Knowledge as revealed by him. With these preliminaries remarks, we will now move on to consider a few of the more famous Perfect Masters and the writings end scriptures associated with them.
First we will look at those scriptures which we will seldom use, and we will begin with the Buddhist scriptures. These are vast. The scriptures of but one sect, the Pali Canon, fill 45 huge volumes, while the Tibetan Buddhist scriptures consist of 325 volumes of 1,000 closely printed pages each. Furthermore, most of the scriptures were not written down until some 600 years or more after the death of Gotama the Buddha.12 So while some sayings of the historical person Gotama are doubtless contained in the scriptures, we cannot isolate them from interpolations and extraneous material. Indeed, the orthodox scriptures are so vast that it is said that no-one has read them all; and anyway, if one hunted in them long enough one could doubtless find quotes to support practically any argument.
However there is no reason to doubt that about 500 BC there lived a historical person Gotama, prince of the Shakyas, who was a 'Buddha', a term meaning enlightened (ie one who Knows the One) "and will thereafter enlighten others." 13
Having reached the shore myself, I carry others to the shore; being free, I make free; being comforted, I comfort; being perfectly at rest, I lead others to rest. (Buddha) 14
With the Taoist scripture the "Tao Te Ching" the position is just the opposite from the Buddhist scriptures. Here we have a very short and concise scripture of 81 verses, coherent and consistent, but no established Perfect Master. The author is traditionally held to be Lao Tzu, but no one knows for certain who he was, when exactly he lived or even if he lived at all. A biographer who tried in 100 BC to write his story, could find only two facts about him and he then threw his hands up in despair. Traditionally, however, Lao Tzu is considered a Perfect Master, one who could reveal the 'Tao' or 'Way'. He is supposed to have written the Tao Te Ching at the age of a 160 when leaving the Middle Kingdom of China for the mountains.
Not only is modern scholarship divided over Lao Tzu's existence, but also about the date of composition of the Tao Te Ching, various dates between the 6th century BC and the 3rd century BC being held by various scholars. Furthermore, the work is so concise and compressed that many different translations are possible of the cryptic and archaic Chinese. As the Tao Te Ching itself says, "Straight words seem crooked."15 Although it is clear that the work can be interpreted as being written by a Perfect Master, it would be too technical and lengthy to establish this here.16
This last remark also applies to the Koran, the scripture of Islam founded by Mohammed. For although the Koran was supposedly revealed to Mohammed by Allah (God) via the Angel Gabriel, it is on occasions particularly blood-thirsty and un-Loving, which is often supposed to have been the cause of much fighting and the spread of Islam by the sword (this is dealt with in Chapter 16). But it is held by many17 that there is a deeper and more profound sense to the words than the literal one. Mohammed himself is supposed to have said, "The Koran has been revealed in seven integrities." 18 of which the literal meaning is the most superficial and unimportant. After all, Allah Himself says in the Koran of the Koran, "Upon Us resteth the explanation of it." 19
There is also the fact that originally the Koran was written in Kufic script which has no indication of vowels or diacritical points, so that some verses have variant literal meanings anyway. Again, to follow the arguments of those Muslims who see in the Koran an expression of the Knowledge of the Perfect Master would be too laborious and technical to do here. 20 What has been said of the Koran is also true of the Jewish scriptures to a large extent, although there are some very beautiful and 'mystical' parts in them, such as the Psalms of David and the Song of Songs. Indeed, it is held that both Moses and David were Perfect Masters. The reason for our not using the Old Testament and other Jewish scriptures is simply to keep the subject matter within bounds; in a larger book than this, some of the Jewish scriptures could be used most effectively.
Anyway, having stated which scriptures we will seldom use, we will now go on to look at those which we will often use in illustrating the forthcoming argument. We will begin by considering briefly the "Adi Guru-Granth" which is the scripture of the Sikhs. The founder of the Sikhs was Guru Nanak (1469-1539), and since he is so recent (historically) we have an abundance of evidence of his life and behaviour. He was clearly a Knower of the One, and almost certainly a Perfect Master, as we shall see from his writings. After he died, there was a succession of nine other Sikh Perfect Masters, ending with the death of the tenth in 1708.
The Adi Guru-Granth is a collection of hymns and prayers made by the fifth Sikh Guru or Perfect Master. It contains the writings of many saints and poets, about one fifth of it being composed directly by Guru Nanak, It is only this one-fifth that we shall consider.22 Apart from the Sikh scriptures we will also use some other Indian scriptures purporting to be the sayings of Krishna. Krishna is like Lao Tzu, in that there are an enormous amount of legends and stories about him, but very little historical fact. He seems to have lived about 1500 BC, 23 and after a birth very similar to that of Jesus, he lived in a rural setting, during which he played with the milk-maids and others of his home town (Vrindavan), the episodes of which are very popular in India. Later he left Vrindavan and was involved much in politics - he was a king and even fought in a great battle.
During this battle there ensued a dialogue between Krishna and a disciple of his called Arjuna. This dialogue was overheard and became known as the "Bhagavad Gita" and is probably one of the best-known scriptures in the world. Apart from that, Krishna also had a dialogue with another disciple later, called Uddhada, and this dialogue (the "Uddhada Gita") is also famous.25
Whether these two Gitas represent the actual words of a historical person called Krishna is impossible to confirm. The point is that the Gitas exist and were obviously written by somebody (probably in the 6th century BC.26) The 'somebody' (whom we shall call Krishna) sums up the essence of what a Perfect Master says and does, and as such the Gitas are rightly world-famous. They are written in simple and clear language, and there is no difficulty in translating them and comprehending their literal meaning (unlike the Tao Te Ching).
The last Perfect Master we will consider is Jesus Christ, whom we will assume needs no introduction to the reader. There is remarkably little evidence outside the New Testament that the historical Jesus ever lived, but that need not concern us. We will accept the fact that Jesus lived and that his words and deeds are more or less as recorded in the four gospels. Nevertheless, there are some inconsistencies and instances of vagueness both in the gospels and the New Testament as a whole. This is not surprising when it is considered how it came to be formed. For the first record of Jesus' life we have is St. Mark's gospel written in 70 AD - that is about forty years after Jesus' ministry.27 Luke's and Matthew's gospels appeared soon after, and John's towards the end of the century. None but the most naive would hold that after forty years of endless discussion and storytelling, the words of Jesus would be recorded as he spoke them, even though the general sense would probably still remain. There were undoubtedly many writings other than the gospels of Jesus' ministry, for Luke begins his gospel, "Many writers have undertaken to draw up an account of the events that have happened among us," though he has to admit that they and him were just "following the traditions handed down to us." 28 The next two hundred years was a period of great confusion, with scriptures being destroyed, badly copied or deliberately falsified to fit in with the rapidly hardening orthodoxy.29 The bad copying and misreading can be attributed to many factors, one of which must be that the early manuscripts werewrittenlikethiswithnospacesbetweenthewordsandwithnopunctuation. The gospels and epistles which now comprise the New Testament are those recommended as authentic by Athanasius in 367 AD, and all the other mass of writings were rigidly destroyed or falsified.30
Nevertheless, in spite of all the miscopying, the interpolations and the falsifying we will consider the New Testament in general to be a valid testimony of the sayings and actions of a Perfect Master. This means additionally that we have to assume that the writers of the New Testament (in particular St. John and St. Paul) understood Jesus' teachings fully, so that in their narratives or letters it is immaterial whether they put their statements into Jesus' mouth or put them as their own.31 Before we pass on to the next section, we should note that there seem to be two interpretations possible of that important Christian concept, the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). One set of meanings used often by Jesus is that the 'Father' represents what we have defined as the Godhead or the One; the Son, or the Word (Logos), represents what we have defined as God in Chapter 13 ("The Word was God " 32) often called the 'Christ' (as a principle rather than the person Jesus); and the Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost represents what we have defined as Grace. Another rather different interpretation of the Trinity appears to have been sometimes meant by Jesus, and it is this interpretation which was used by Eckhart and others. This is that none of the Trinity represent the Godhead or One as such (which is the reason the new word 'Godhead' had to be coined), but all are manifestations of 'God', as we have defined the term. In this interpretation it seems that God the Father is God as God, God the Son represents the incarnation of God in a human body (Jesus of Nazareth), and God the Holy Spirit, or Ghost, again represents the gift of God we have called Grace.
Bearing these two different interpretations in mind, we will now move on to consider the tradition of Knowledge which it seems those special Knowers of the One we call Perfect Master formulated.
The Tradition Of Knowledge
To begin with, since Perfect Masters are Knowers of the One, we should expect that their scriptures fully corroborate the arguments put forward in the last four chapters. We find this to be so, but rather than tediously duplicate the entire past four chapters and illustrate how quotes from the Perfect Masters' scriptures reinforce them, we will here just briefly sum up the three main tenets which all Knowers of the One (Perfect Masters end others) have without exception held.
Firstly: the infinite, the eternal and non-differentiated One does exist, though not apparent to our discursive faculties (eg senses and intellect), and it is the basis of the diverse.
There is one absolute existence. On its surface appear the myriad forms of the phenomenal world like bubbles on the ocean. For a while they stay and then disappear. The One, absolute existence, the abiding reality, remains. (Krishna) 33
In the One is all, and in the all is One. (Guru Nanak) 34
Allah is One, the Eternal God. (Koran) 35
And there are diversities of operations but it is the same God which worketh all in all. (New Testament, Paul) 36
With him (the Father) there is no variation, or shadow caused by change. (New Testament, James) 37
Unborn, Unageing and Self-existent, He has neither moods nor fancies. (Guru Nanak) 38
In the beginning, before there was any division of subject and object, there was one existence, Brahman alone, One without a second. (Krishna) 39
When all things began, the Word already was … no single thing was created without him (ie the Word). (New Testament, John) 40
Tao is the source of all things. (Tao Te Ching) 41
But beyond this creation, visible and invisible, there is an Invisible, higher, Eternal; and when all things pass away this remains for ever and ever. (Krishna) 42
Secondly; Unpeace consists in being attached to and being conditioned by the diverse, and in not Knowing the One.
As long as there is consciousness of diversity and not of unity in the 'I', a man ignorantly thinks of himself as a separate being … He remains subject to birth and death, knows happiness and misery, is bound by his own deeds, good and bad. (Krishna) 43
But if one merely sees the diversity of things, with their divisions and limitations, then one has impure knowledge (Krishna) 44
Do not store up for yourselves treasure on earth, where it grows rusty and moth-eaten, and thieves break in to steal it (New Testament, Matthew) 45
The world is a perishable home. (Guru Nanak) 46
You must work, not for this perishable food, but for the food that lasts, the food of eternal life. (New Testament, John) 47
Those that come not to the True One, the Supreme Being, shall be ruined. (Guru Nanak) 48
Attachment to the body causes all bondage and misery. Know ye the truth of the 'I' and be free. (Krishna) 49
The life of this world is but comfort of illusion. (Koran) 50
The phenomena of life may be likened unto a dream, a phantasm, a bubble, a shadow, the glistening dew, or lightning flash, and thus they ought to be contemplated. (Buddha) 51
Thirdly: the aim of our life is to find Peace and it can only be found by Knowing the One.
Seek only the One, seek no other. See the essence of reality. (Guru Nanak) 52
Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you. (New Testament, Matthew) 53
Union with God, the Soul of all souls, is the end to be sought. (Krishna) 54
Wake up from this dream of ignorance and see the one 'I'. The 'I' alone is real, (Krishna) 55
He who attains Tao is everlasting. Though his body may decay he never perishes. (Tao Te Ching) 56
No more birth will take place if he (the disciple) once realises the True One. (Guru Nanak) 57
Going back to the origin is called Peace. (Tao Te Ching) 58
Verily in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest. (Koran) 59
Now we will move on from considering the Perfect Masters as Knowers of the One, and will investigate what exactly distinguishes the One from the other. Of course, in essence nothing distinguishes any Knower of the One, since they are, by definition, in union with the One in which there is no difference or distinguishing. But difference and diversity are always seen when our viewpoint is rooted in the diverse, and so we do in fact see a definite difference between those Knowers of the One we call Perfect Masters and the others.
The difference is basically that Perfect Masters can reveal to us the Knowledge of how to Know the One, whereas ordinary Knowers cannot, as we have seen. That is not to say that the latter cannot help others; indeed, as we saw in Chapter 11, Knowers of the One are commonly filled with such an overpowering Love for humanity by virtue of their seeing the essential unity underlying all mankind, that they are bound to do all they can for humanity. With their actions and words they will strive to help as many as possible, continually pointing out that the purpose of human life is to Know the One, and with their wisdom and their Love they will be a constant source of inspiration to those they are in contact with. But however much understanding and wisdom and however many beautiful experiences they can impart to others, if they are not Perfect Masters they will not be able to reveal that Perfect Knowledge which enables the One to be fully Known.
The reason why this is so is not clear, but we can attempt some sort of explanation in the following way. The reader will remember that we defined God to be the One or the Godhead as looked at from the diverse, in the sense that He represents the existence of the impossible fact of the actionless One in action; and as such it was He who 'created' the diverse (or the backgrounds which caused the One to appear as the diverse) which causes us to think sometimes of Him as almost personified (and hence the personal pronoun 'He'). Thus we can think of God as the 'ruler' as it were of the diverse; and so even a Knower of the One, as long as he is acting out his part living in the diverse, is a servant of God and is dependent on His Grace, even though at the same time he is in complete union with the non-differentiated Godhead which is the real 'essence' of God and all beings. Thus it is that the Knowers of the One claim that although they have recognised that they are of the substance, as it were of the Godhead, they are not the Godhead itself, and are thus not God. In 'reality' they are one with the Godhead, like the waves are one with the sea; but from the diverse viewpoint they are other than God and subject to Him, like the waves are other than the sea itself, even though they are one with the sea in the sense of their being sea-water. And since these ordinary Knowers are not God, they have no control over God's Grace, except in as much as harnessing it to their own ends to become Knowers in the first place.
But the distinguishing feature of the Knower who is a Perfect Master seems to be this: that he takes on the ability to perform some of the functions of God in particular that of giving Grace. This is why Perfect Masters are often called 'Avatars' or 'Incarnations of God', in that while they are in union with the One, in common with all Knowers, they are distinguished from other Knowers by having to some degree that power of God to bestow Grace. This, of course is only from the viewpoint of the diverse, since God only exists in relation to the diverse - in the One, God is not God but is the actionless and non-differentiated Godhead.
Since the Perfect Master has a physical human body, us followers can see him and talk and live with him, and so it is natural that they call the Grace which is enabling them to Know as the Grace of the Perfect Master or the Guru. Of course, Grace is no-one's 'property', it just is, and it comes from God, but by virtue of the Perfect Master being able to increase Grace and to step it up, it becomes known as his Grace.
By the Guru's Grace the gem that is God you will find. (Guru Nanak) 60
Thou shalt overcome all dangers by my Grace. (Krishna) 61
It is by the Grace of the Lord Jesus that we are saved, and so are they. (New Testament, Luke) 62
By my Grace and wondrous power I have shown to thee, Arjuna, … the Infinite, the All. (Krishna) 63
He (God) is obtained through Grace. (Guru Nanak) 64
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us … full of Grace and truth. … And of his fullness have all we received, and Grace for Grace. For the law was given by Moses, but Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. (New Testament, John) 65
But although Grace is essential for Knowing the One as we have seen earlier, the difficulty is to know how to make use of it and even though a Perfect Master may pep up the available Grace, this difficulty still remains. Thus in addition to his Grace, or as part of it, the Perfect Master also reveals the Knowledge of how to harness that power of Grace so that the One can be Known.
Now we defined Grace crudely in the last chapter as a bit of the non-differentiated Godhead which exists in the diverse but which is not of it, otherwise it would be (or appear to be) diverse. And since Grace is non-diverse, it cannot be known discursively, which means that we cannot judge a Perfect Master by his Grace. What we can judge him by is the Knowledge he gives, for that is what enables us to get hold of Grace. In other words, the test of any Perfect Master is to see whether his Knowledge does, in fact, enable us to Know the One and so find that Perfect Peace. Needless to say, the scriptures proclaim that the Knowledge given by the Perfect Master they are concerned with was true and led to the One being Known.
The Guru will tell you of One who is beyond telling … The teaching of the Guru shows the way to union divine. (Guru Nanak) 66
And the glory which thou (the Father) gavest me (Jesus) I have given them … that they may be made perfect in one. (New Testament, John) 67
The Guru hath shown him (the disciple) the way to God. (Guru Nanak) 68
The baptism I (Jesus) am baptised with shall be your baptism. (New Testament, Mark) 69
He (Jesus) will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. (New Testament, Matthew) 70
The human body is like a boat, the first and foremost use of which is to carry us across the ocean of life and death to the shore of immortality. The Guru is the skilful helmsman; Divine Grace is the favourable wind. (Krishna) 71
As many as received him (Jesus), to them gave he power to become the sons of God. (New Testament, John) 72
The time cometh When I (Jesus) shall not more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall shew you plainly of the Father. (New Testament, John) 73
At the end of the last chapter we spoke of Knowledge as being a sort of link, whereby non-differentiated Grace can be utilised by our discursive faculties to bring about Knowing. Thus Knowledge must have two sides to it - one being in the world of difference so that the discursive faculties such as our senses and intellect can grab onto it, and the other being completely non-differentiated in order to pick up the Grace.
Because of this, the Knowledge, as given by a Perfect Master, can show us "plainly of the Father", as Jesus said in the last quote, though of course when we become Knowers we are no longer bound by the diverse, and are thus no longer typically 'human' in the sense of belonging to the world of difference. That is why St. John could write, "No man hath seen God at any time;" 74 because firstly we cannot 'see' God, since seeing a discursive procedure - we can only Know God, as mentioned in Chapter 12; secondly, having Known God we are no longer the diverse animal 'man', as just mentioned; and thirdly, if we Know God (ie Godhead) we are no longer in time or space (Chapter 13), so we cannot Know God "at any time." As Augustine said, "His divinity can in no wise be seen by human sight, but is seen by that sight with which those who see are no longer men, but beyond men." 75
But nevertheless, although the Knowledge leads to that union and merging in the non-differentiated One which we have called Knowing, it must have a discursive 'side' to it, as we have seen. Thus it is that the Perfect Masters, while stressing that discursive methods alone cannot lead to that non-discursive Knowing, nevertheless maintain that they are a necessary part of the Knowledge. In other words, the Knowledge involves, in part at least, an actual teaching which can be spoken about and explained verbally.
Gems, jewels, pearls appear in the understanding if even one teaching of the Guru be attended to. (Guru Nanak) 76
Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect … (New Testament, Paul) 77
I will tell thee a supreme mystery … It is the supreme mystery and wisdom. (Krishna) 78
The verbal explanations of the discursive side of the Knowledge seem to involve an actual and specific teaching which was by and large kept secret, and given with discretion. In this respect it is interesting to note that in 1958 a letter from a famous leader of the early Christian church (Clement of Alexandria) was found in a Greek monastery near Jerusalem. In this letter are quoted two biblical passages from a "secret and expanded version' of St. Mark's gospel, written by Mark when in Alexandria. In these passages (which should appear after verses 34 and 46 in Chapter X of the gospels as we have it) it talks of Jesus initiating people into the Kingdom of Heaven by a secret baptismal rite; in particular, a young man was raised from the dead and Jesus initiated him into "the mystery of the Kingdom of God", and it also suggests that Jesus was passing on the Knowledge in the Garden of Gesthemane when he was arrested. 79 But even the 'orthodox' scriptures give ample evidence that explanations of the Knowledge were not given to everybody, and were secret.
I have given thee words of vision and wisdom more secret than hidden mysteries. (Krishna) 80
But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom … (New Testament, Paul) 81
Unto you (the close disciples) it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables. (New Testament, Mark) 82
I have revealed to thee the most secret doctrine, Arjuna. (Krishna) 83
It also seemed that the methods or techniques revealed in the Knowledge 'session' were such as could be practised secretly, the aspirant being told to delve somehow within himself.
The kingdom of God is within you. (New Testament, Luke) 84
In my heart I hold Him who is imminent in every place. (Guru Nanak) 85
Pray to thy Father Which is in secret. (New Testament, Matthew) 86
The fact that the discursive part of Knowledge involves actual techniques or methods will become clear in Chapter 18; here we want to emphasise the dual aspect of Knowledge - the fact that it must have two 'sides', one facing the world of difference for the benefit of our discursive mental faculties, and the other facing the world of non-difference or the One so that Grace can be caught. If this second side to Knowledge is missing, then we only have the techniques and methods, which by themselves cannot enable the One to be Known.
There is no doubt that there are many devices or methods of self-improvement which do produce a peaceful state of mind and are beneficial. But as we have pointed out earlier, no discursive device, whether reading, talking, chanting, imagining, thinking, singing, concentrating or feeling, can on its own cause us to Know the One and so have Peace. We must have the non-differentiated side of Knowledge as well; without it, Knowledge just becomes knowledge. The belief that there is a mysterious and secret technique, which if we know and practise will enable us to Know the One, ('Gnosticism') is widespread. But such a technique or 'gnosis' can never take us to the One unless it is revealed by a Perfect Master, whence knowledge becomes Knowledge.
O brother, know that without the Guru there is no Knowledge The Guru gives us Knowledge and power to concentrate. (Guru Nanak) 87
No one Knows the Father but the Son and those to Whom the Son may choose to reveal him. (New Testament, Matthew) 88
The gate of salvation is only reached through the Guru's instruction. (Guru Nanak) 89
I am the Way, sustainer, Lord and witness, true home and refuge … (Krishna) 90
I (Christ) am the way, the truth end the life; no men cometh unto the Father, but by me. (New Testament, John) 91
Because of the Knowing of the One which the Perfect Master makes possible through the Knowledge, it is not surprising that his disciples build up an intense love for him. Indeed, this can be said to be part of the Knowledge, for in the last chapter we pointed out how love for God is a desire to be united with the One, which is a prerequisite for Grace coming to make that desire be realised. In other words, if we do not want to Know the One, then we won't. To make use of the Knowledge, we must want it and its fruits in the first place. Since the Perfect Master can perform some of the functions of God, then the love for God that is necessary for Knowing the One can legitimately be transferred to the Perfect Master. Thus a snowball effect builds up, with the would-be Knower wanting to Know the One, which is equivalent to loving the Perfect Master (and thus God), which in turn enables him to use the Knowledge efficiently which of course in turn causes more love for the Perfect Master, which in turn develops his hold on the Knowledge, which in turn … etc
Thus it is that all scriptures maintain that love for and devotion to the Perfect Master is of the utmost importance.
He who loves me shall not perish. (Krishna) 92
God's Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love imperishable (New Testament, Paul) 93
The Guru is won by devotion. (Guru Nanak) 94
By love we find our way to the gate of the Lord's mansion. (Guru Nanak) 95
Of all the paths to me, who am the goal of all the sages, the path of love is the happiest and best. (Krishna) 96
He who loves me (Jesus) will be loved by my Father; and I will love him and disclose myself to him. (New Testament, John) 97
Those only who have pure love for me find me easily … (Krishna) 98
Many are the means described for the attainment of the highest good … But of all I could name, verily love is the highest; love and devotion that make one forgetful of everything else, love that unites the lover with me. (Krishna) 99
It seems that the vast majority of Knowers of the One in history became so an account of their receiving Knowledge from one of their number who was special in that he could give Knowledge. These special Knowers we call Perfect Masters.
The accepted writings of (or about) the Perfect Masters are called scriptures, and they support not only that the Perfect Masters were Knowers, but that they could also give Grace and the Knowledge, the Knowledge being the two-sided link between our discursive faculties and Grace.
Love for the Perfect Master is also important, and enables the discursive side of Knowledge to be grasped much more readily.
16 - Alive Or Dead?
The word 'religion' comes from Latin 're-legere', which means to rebind or reunite. So it can be said that all Perfect Masters build up 'religion', in the sense that by the Knowledge they give, they reunite their disciples back with the One. But all the Perfect Masters that were mentioned in the last chapter not only built up 'religion' in this literal meaning, but they were all the founders of a 'religion' in the more common meaning of the word as orthodox and dogmatic system of worship.
Christianity stemmed from Jesus Christ, Buddhism from Gotama Buddha, Hinduism (or more strictly that part of it known as Vaishnava) from Krishna, Sikhism from Guru Nanak etc And it is a common feature that a religion only considered as important that Perfect Master which founded it. This view is most extreme in Christianity, and most tolerant in Hinduism, but it exists to a certain extent in all religions.
Now in view of what has been said in the last few chapters (Particularly the last), the way to the One is one. In other words, all Perfect Masters, by virtue of being Perfect Masters, were doing exactly the same job - namely giving people that Knowledge which enabled them to Know the One. This can be said to be the real 'religion' in the literal meaning of the word, and is the 'religion' to which Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, Guru Nanak, Mohammed etc all belonged. If however we talk of Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism etc as being religions in the common meaning of the word, then it is an important question to decide whether Jesus was a Christian, whether Buddha was a Buddhist, whether Guru Nanak was a Sikh, etc
For while the job of Perfect Masters is to give people Knowledge, in that sense they all being the same, there is no doubt that in external matters they were different. And it seems that the religions of the world have inherited the differences rather than that essential unity which without exception their 'founders' were revealing to people.
So the stand we adopt in this chapter is this that the Perfect Master is most valuable when he is alive in a physical body, since only then can we obtain that Perfect Knowledge which can lead us to the One. While his external teachings, perhaps even the actual techniques of the Knowledge itself, are preserved in the scriptures and dogmas of the religion, without the living Perfect Master all that remains is knowledge (small 'k'), which cannot acquire for us that Grace we need to become Knowers.
To support this viewpoint, we will first look at the scriptures, and then examine some practical applications it implies.
The Scriptures Again
It seems that the key to understanding much of the scriptures is to understand how the Perfect Master talks of himself. Sometimes he talks of himself in his diverse and human aspect, and at other times in his unitive and non-differentiated aspect, and the failure to distinguish the two modes of speech can lead to much confusion.
For instance, in the last chapter we spoke of Krishna as living possibly about 1500 BC in the town of Vrindavan, and then talking to Arjuna on a battlefield etc Now if we keep in mind only this human aspect of Krishna, we will make little sense of these statements of his:
I am all-powerful Time … 1
Know that with one single fraction of my Being I pervade and support the Universe … 2
I am the One source of all. 3
Here it is obvious that Krishna is identifying himself with God, ie with the One in its aspect of being responsible for this world of difference. This can be done because, as we have seen while ordinary Knowers of the One legitimately say that they have become united with the One, a Perfect Master, in order to give Knowledge, has to assume some of God's functions. And because of this, he will often speak as if he were God or the One, as distinct from speaking as if he were merely united to God or the One. Also, it should be noted that because the One as Godhead exists in a Perfect Master (as indeed it is in all of us, only we do not realise it) as well as some aspects of the One as God, then the distinction between God and Godhead will tend to become a bit blurred on occasions.
Unless we recognise this identification with the One which the Perfect Master sometimes makes, then we will dismiss the above three quotes as being the ravings of an egocentric lunatic. But Krishna is quite explicit talking about himself:
I am the embodiment of the Supreme Ruler, and of the incorruptible, of the unmodifyng, and of the eternal law, and of endless bliss. 4
The following two quotes bring out clearly the two-fold manner of speaking which a Perfect Master employs, and how we should always distinguish the two if we want to make sense of the scriptures:
The unwise think that I am that form of my lower nature which is seen by mortal eyes. (Krishna) 5
Although I am unborn, everlasting, and I am the Lord of all, I come to my realm of nature and through my wondrous power I am born (as a human being). (Krishna) 6
In the New Testament St. John brings out very clearly this dual way of speaking of Jesus Christ. He starts his gospel talking of the Word, and saying it is that we have defined as 'God' ("the Word was God") and since God is the actionless One in action, then it follows that:
All things were made by him (ie the 'Word' or 'God'); and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. … That was the true Light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world … And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. 8
So here we have the One as God or the Word creating everything and being the principle of life in everyone; yet it is this Word which is made flesh to become Jesus. And note that not part of the Word was made flesh, but the Word. And since Jesus was the Word or God made flesh, we should not be surprised if sometimes Jesus talks of himself not as the fleshly physical body named 'Jesus', but as his true nature, the Word or God, as in "I and my Father are one." 9
Since of course God is One by definition, we can see how in these next quotes it is that aspect of the One we have called God which is speaking, and not the physical forms in which the One was embodied at that time.
I am from everlasting the seed of eternal life. (Krishna) 10
I am the resurrection and the life. (Jesus) 11
I am the life all living beings. (Krishna) 12
I am the way, the truth and the life. (Jesus) 13
I am the way. (Krishna) 14
I am all-knowing, all-seeing … I am the Tathagata, the Lord, who has no superior, who appears in this world to save. (Buddha)15
Of course, for most of us it is quite difficult to accept this, because we were brought up to think of 'our' Perfect Master, Jesus or Krishna or whatever, as being essentially the body and the personality. Now it must be stressed that the physical and personal aspect of the Perfect Master is important, and of course in this respect all Perfect Masters were different. But to the extent that they all did the same essential job, and that they were Knowers who assumed God's function of being able to give Grace, then it must be clear that we can speak of the Perfect Master - that is, the Word or the Christ-principle which incarnates in a body from time to time as a Perfect Master to give Knowledge to whoever wants it. Thus while the body of a Perfect Master - the 'Jesus' part - is born and dies like all other bodies, the things that makes the body a Perfect Master - the Word or the 'Christ' part - is never born and never dies, since it is the One as One, and there is nothing to stop it taking a fleshly body as often as it wants.
I am the beginning, the middle and the end. (Krishna) 16
I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending. (Jesus) 17
I am time, never-ending time… (Krishna) 18
I am with you always, to the end of life. (Jesus) 19
For the destruction of evil doers, for the setting up of righteousness I come into being, age after age. (Krishna) 20
For this purpose the son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. (New Testament, John) 21
Now although Jesus was very explicit about his 'Christ' aspect, or the Word, which was "in the beginning" and which was the "true Light which lighteth every man", he was nevertheless equally explicit that only when the Word was in the flesh could this "true Light" be realised. In other word to Know the One a living Perfect Master is needed.
As long as I am in the world, I am the Light of the world. (Jesus) 22
Yet a little while is the Light with you. Walk while ye have the Light, lest darkness come upon you. (Jesus) 23
In these quotes it is obvious that it is the physical Jesus which is talking, and not the everlasting Christ or Word, which happened to inhabit the body called 'Jesus' for thirty three years nearly twenty centuries ago. Jesus makes it quite clear that when he (Jesus) goes, then there would be darkness, even though he (as Christ or the Word) would still exist as "the true Light which lighteth every man", And of course Jesus did go - at least, if he did not die normally, he was nevertheless "parted from them, and carried up into heaven," 24 and was thus no longer of the earth physically.
Now it is true that after the departing of Jesus from this planet, the disciples had the 'Comforter, the Holy Spirit, what we have termed 'Grace'. But we always have Grace anyway, as we saw in Chapter 14 - what is needed is the living Perfect Master to give the Knowledge of how to use that Grace; and Jesus, like all Perfect Masters, recognised this and so promised that he (as the Word or Christ) would incarnate again in a physical body.
I will not leave you comfortless; I will come to you. (Jesus) 25
And for every nation there is a messenger. (Koran) 26
Wherever such a sage (ie a Buddha) is born, that race prospers. (Buddha) 27
I come into being age after age. (Krishna) 28
He (the Perfect Master) indeed is and ever shall be, He goes not nor shall go … (Guru Nanak) 29
If this is the case, and the Perfect Master or the Christ is with us in a physical body, then the obvious problem is how do we recognise him? Will he call himself 'Jesus' or 'Gotama' or the personal name he used for a particular body in the past? Jesus said it would be hard to recognise the Perfect Master:
I shall come upon you like a thief, and you will not know the moment of my coming. (New Testament, John) 30
The Day of the Lord comes as a thief in the night. (New Testament, Paul) 31
Although Jesus also said that he will come openly, "All the peoples … will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven …" etc32 he said just afterwards "the present generation will live to see it all" 33 so it is quite obvious that he was not referring to this generation, which was almost two thousand years in the future at the time he spoke.
But although it will not be clear to everybody that the Perfect Master is again in the world, Jesus said that the Knowledge will be spread everywhere:
This gospel of the Kingdom will be proclaimed , throughout the earth … (Jesus) 34
And Jesus made it quite clear that by 'gospel' he did not mean the scriptures, for they, being diverse, do not lead to the One or 'eternal life':
You study the scriptures diligently, supposing that in them you have eternal life; yet although their testimony points to me, you refuse to come to me for that life. (Jesus) 35
In other words, we need to go to a living (ie living in a physical body) Perfect Master for that 'life', and although scriptures repeatedly testify to this, we refuse to come to "me", that is the Word or Christ, for that "life". Of course at the time of Jesus, the Word or Christ was 'in' the body of Jesus, and so Jesus Christ was the Perfect Master of his time. But at any time after (or before) Jesus, any would-be Knower of the One had to search for another human body in which the Christ or Word was then incarnated.
The obvious question now is as mentioned above, how do we find the Perfect Master of our time? It seems that this will be difficult, especially in view of what Jesus says:
Then if anyone says 'Look, here is the Messiah', or 'There he is', do not believe it. Imposters will come, claiming to be messiahs or prophets… 36
Beware of false prophets … 37
Of course, Jesus did not say all prophets after him would be false or imposters, but merely that many will be so and that we should be on our guard. He also said that if people tell us "Here is the Perfect Master" we should not believe it; so if we must not believe, then we have to have certainty! After all, belief is very wishy-washy and emotional; if someone tells us the Perfect Master is here, then this is much too important a piece of information to merely believe or disbelieve. We must check it out thoroughly and be certain one way or the other.
The way of checking out Perfect-Master-claims which Jesus suggested was to look at what they actually did, and not just at what they said;
Accept the evidence of the deeds themselves. (Jesus) 38
You will recognise them by the fruits they bear … A good tree always yields good fruit, and a poor tree bad fruit. (Jesus) 39
But as we have seen, and will see more clearly in the following section, the external activities of individual Perfect Masters were different according to the age and country their body was in. So if we are going to judge a Perfect Master, we must clearly do so by his deeds or fruits which we know he must exhibit - ie by his ability to impart to us Knowledge of how to Know the One. There is no other test of a Perfect Master other than the Knowledge he gives, for the one and only reason a Perfect Master exists on this earth is to lessen the hold of the delusion of the diverse by enabling people to know the non-differentiated and Perfect One or Godhead, and he must be accepted or not on this criterion alone.
The Life Giveth Spirit
So the picture that has evolved so far is that in order to Know the One and find Peace we have to get Knowledge from a living Perfect Master; for otherwise we will only get a discursive knowledge which will by definition be unable to harness that Grace we need for Knowing. We hold that the Perfect Master Jesus Christ unquestionably taught this, in so far as the New Testament records his sayings. Of course, if we go to other writings about Jesus which are excluded from the New Testament, then this position is made even clearer (which is probably why they were excluded). 40
Not only Jesus, but to the extent that we have records of their pertinent sayings, all Perfect Masters include this in their teaching. Whenever a Perfect Master announces that he will be around after he leaves his physical body, then we can be sure that he is talking of the Word or God-part, and not of the human personality which he assumed for that particular sojourn on the Earth.
Having shown that scriptures (we use the New Testament a lot merely on account of the western reader being more familiar with it) tend to suggest strongly that Knowledge can only be given by a living Perfect Master, we now go on to give some further reasons (and summarise those already given) for why we must look to a living Perfect Master. Each of the seven subsections below cover topics that could be (and have been) the subjects for whole books, so the few pages we have allotted to each necessitates a gross condensation.
The first reason for needing a Perfect Master in the flesh is the fact that he can personally 'step up' the flow of Grace to his followers and to the world at large. We spoke of Grace as such in Chapter 14; and in the last chapter of how the Perfect Master, by his being able to perform some of God's functions, can increase this gift of Grace. It was not stressed at that point that we must have the Perfect Master in a living body, but the arguments then presented support the fact that we must. There must be an actual physical and diverse human being connected with God (as distinct from Godhead) to cause this extra influx of Grace to occur, since Grace is God's gift. This is why many Knowers of the one, including Augustine and Eckhart, have made the identical statement, "God became man, that man might become God." 41
The main function of this increase in Grace is of course to help the followers of the Perfect Master to become Knowers; since as we have seen, to become one with the 'I', that is to separate the Pure Consciousness from the self, we need a power which is totally non-discursive. That power we defined as 'Grace'.
The Perfect Master's Grace works in a variety of ways, as we shall see; it filters into the very fibre of a disciple's life, and its effects can be recognised in a hundred different ways. (Grace itself, of course, cannot be recognised since its essence is unrecognisable Godhead - only the effects of Grace can be observed.) The follower of the Perfect Master often feels that he is just being swept towards the One by the current of his Master's Grace, and this explains why all disciples of a living Perfect Master continually maintain that whatever they achieved was not really through their own efforts, but was the result of Grace.
Not only does the living Perfect Master step up Grace, but, as we have seen, he also gives the Knowledge of how Grace can be utilised. Indeed, this is the definition of a Perfect Master, and it is only by taking his Knowledge and practising it that we will ever know whether he is a Perfect Master or not.
As we have stated, Knowledge is that which harnesses the power of Grace; that is to say, although it is only through Grace that we become Knowers, it is only through Knowledge that we can link up with Grace. An analogy of this is that we can liken Grace to the wind blowing across a lake, and the Knowledge as the sails of a boat on that lake. Now the power which moves the boat is the wind, but the sails are essential for harnessing that power. Without the sail, the power of the wind would be useless.
Now as we have seen, Knowledge is really incomprehensible, since it must have the nature of the non-differentiated One combined with the nature of the diverse. It must have the nature of the One or Godhead in order to pick up the wind of Grace, as it were; and yet it must also possess the nature of the diverse so that we, with our discursive and diverse faculties, can handle it and set it up (like sails) so that its non-diverse nature can catch the Grace.
The diverse side of Knowledge involves some actual techniques which we can practice, and which can be spoken out and grasped intellectually, though they are usually only divulged to a deserving few. We will come to this side of Knowledge later. The other side of Knowledge, the uni-verse ('turned into one') side is by its non-diverse nature impossible to understand or even detect with the discursive faculties, but it is nevertheless essential. Without it, there is no Knowledge but only knowledge.
What makes knowledge become Knowledge, is the fact that the explanation of the discursive techniques is given with the personal permission of the Perfect Master. Often it is the Master himself who gives the Knowledge or initiation, but some Perfect Masters (such as Jesus) gave their permission to a few close disciples, who received an extra dollop of Grace and could then give Knowledge on behalf of the Perfect Master. They were not themselves Perfect Masters; they were merely channels for the Master's Grace and Knowledge.
These special disciples are called 'apostles', from the Greek 'apostello' meaning 'send away'. Since the Perfect Master is in a human body, he is limited to being (physically) at only one place at any one time; so that if many want to become Knowers (as was the case in Jesus' time) then the Master has to give his permission for these special disciples to give Knowledge, and then he has to send them away to somewhere else to do his work.
In the language of the New Testament, 'to give Knowledge' is to 'baptise with the Holy Spirit' since 'Holy Spirit' is equivalent to Grace as we have defined it. This is not for the same as baptism with water, John the Baptist says, "I have baptised you with water; he (Jesus) will baptise you with the Holy Spirit." 42 Now it was this 'baptism with the Holy Spirit' that Jesus empowered his apostles to give, for when some Jews came to the apostle Peter wanting to Know the One, Peter told them "Be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus the Messiah for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." 43 This reply is very explicit, for it states: firstly that Peter could do the baptising (Jesus had left the planet by then); secondly it was 'in the name of Jesus' (ie the Knowledge was the Perfect Masters', and not Peter's); thirdly that its purpose was to forgive 'sins' which as we have seen (Chapter 13) are a result of acting through self in the diverse; and fourthly that through the baptism or Knowledge the gift of Holy Spirit (ie Grace) could be made use of.
A very clear illustration of the necessity for an apostle to give the initiation, thus turning knowledge into Knowledge, is given in the New Testament as follows:
The apostles in Jerusalem now heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God (ie the teachings, not the 'Word' or 'Logos'). They sent off Peter and John, who went down there and prayed for the converts, asking that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For until then the Spirit had not come upon any of them. They had been baptised (in water) into the name of the Lord Jesus, that and nothing more. So Peter and John laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.44
In other words, although the Samaritans believed in Jesus ("had accepted the word of God") and had been baptised with water in his name, it still needed apostles to come to them personally for them to receive Grace (Holy Spirit).
In another piece the apostle Paul said of those who even had faith, that "only in company with us (ie apostles) should they reach Perfection," 45 and in general "many remarkable and wonderful things took place among the people at the hands of the apostles."46 An important point to notice is that although apostles can give Knowledge with the Perfect Master's permission, they cannot themselves create other apostles, since that is the function of the Perfect Master only. Thus after Jesus left the earth in about 30 AD, no more apostles could be appointed. So if we assume that the last living apostle (John) died about a 100 AD and he gave Knowledge to a young person at that date, then we have about 180 AD as the latest date that anyone could be found with the Knowledge of the Perfect Master Jesus. This of course assumes that none of Jesus' disciples became the Perfect Master after Jesus died. It is very possible, indeed even likely, that they did, but there is no mention of it in any writings of that time.
Apart from the necessity of there being a living Perfect Master to dispense Grace and Knowledge, there is also the fact that a living Master is necessary for personal instruction and for explaining the proper conduct for his disciples to follow, apart from and in addition to the instructions imparted at the time of giving Knowledge. After all, as a person the Perfect Master is commonly very inspiring and it is a great grace to be in his physical company, or that of his close disciples who have truly Known the One.
Before taking the Knowledge, would-be Knowers are often required to hear about the Master and his teachings, and it is often the function of the Master to spend much of his time just teaching and preaching, and setting an example to others by his life. Shankara, whilst stressing that Peace can only be attained through non-discursive Knowing, is careful to point out that nevertheless physical instruction is valuable: "A man, who has heard the truth of the One from the lips of his Perfect Master, becomes calm, self-controlled, satisfied, patient and deeply absorbed in contemplation." 47
Thus a large part of the work of the Perfect Master is just to be with his followers personally, and to guide them physically as much as can be done along the path to the ineffable, non-differentiated Godhead. Guru Nanak described what happens when the Perfect Master just enters (physically) the home of one of his disciples:
… then doubts are broken up and distractions brought under control: a gentle rain of Grace falls drop by drop, one listens to spontaneous music, and the very house obtains happiness. 48
Jesus described the protection he could give to his disciples by just being with them physically when, in 'talking' to the Father (for the benefit of the disciples who overheard), he said:
When I was with them, I protected by the power of thy name those whom thou hast given me, and kept them safe. 49
For while the Perfect Master is alive, he is the organising power behind his followers, and he can personally sort out all the problems and confusions which are bound to arise. But when he and his close disciples have died, then that inspiring instruction and discourse which can only come from One who Knows is finished; and the solutions to the problems which are bound to arise are then looked for in trying to think what the Perfect Master would have said, or in looking through his recorded discourses to try and find a parallel case. Thus orthodoxy and dogma arise, and one is left merely with the shell and no kernel.
It is worth noting at this point that obviously the vast majority of Perfect Masters did their work very quietly, and seem to have acquired only a few disciples. They were not proselytiSing, and chose to stay in seclusion, drawing to themselves only the most ardent and enthusiastic seekers of the One. It is only now and again that Perfect Masters appear who attempt to give Knowledge to many people, and naturally it is in their names that religions are formed, and it is their names which we see remembered in history.
But whether a Perfect Master has one disciple or millions, his job is in essence the same, and can only be done in a human body.
That intense love that wells up in a disciple for his Perfect Master s called devotion. It is born out of two things, as we saw at the end of the last chapter - one is it represents the strong desire to merge with the One, of which the Perfect Master is the embodiment, and the second is that as the disciple begins to use the Knowledge then the feeling of Grace starting to take him towards his destination brings about a deep and profound gratitude. These two causes are interdependent, so that there is feedback effect whereby each cause of the devotee's love reinforces the other, so that in a very short time he feels a love for his Perfect Master which is greater than all other loves.
The necessity of this bond of love or devotion between devotee and Perfect Master is amply illustrated in the quotes later in this chapter, and we will not enlarge on them here. We will just note that again we made no mention at that point of the necessity for the Perfect Master to be living, but in view of what has been said since, it will be obvious that the positive feedback mechanism between the cause and effect of a devotee's love can only operate with a living Perfect Master.
Shankara says "The seeker must approach the Perfect Master with reverent devotion," 50 and it is clear that he means the living Perfect Master, for he also says many times in his writings "I prostrate myself before Govinda, the Perfect Master", 51 his Perfect Master being called Govinda (8th century AD, and not to be confused with Krishna, one of whose names is also Govinda).
That devotion to the Perfect Master purifies the devotee is well brought out in that beautiful story told in all four gospels, of a prostitute's devotion for Jesus:
A woman who was living an immoral life in the town had learned that Jesus was at table in the Pharisee's house and had brought oil of myrrh in a small flask. She took her place behind him, by his feet, weeping. His feet were wetted with her tears and she wiped them with her hair, kissing them and anointing them with the myrrh. 52
When the Pharisee remonstrated against Jesus letting a prostitute touch him, Jesus said: I tell you, her great love proves that her many sins have been forgiven; where little has been forgiven, little love is shown. 53
Thus it is commonly the most wicked and depraved, who, upon receiving Knowledge from the living Perfect Master, become the greatest devotees.
At the end of Chapter 13, we decided that the final expression we could give the inexpressible reason why the Godhead should cause the diverse to appear, is to consider it as a 'play'. Of course, to us, bound by the diverse and involved in our sufferings and joys, pains and pleasures, the 'play' often appears to be very unplayful. But however deadly serious the 'play' becomes, it is nevertheless still a play, and here we have the many different meanings of the word 'play' coming into play.
We can consider the appearance of this diverse as a play in the sense of a game or sport; or we can think of it as a play in the sense of a pageant or drama and thus as being illusory - ie we are just 'playing' at being diverse and different. Alternatively, we can think of the One as playing on itself like a light-beam 'playing on' whatever it illuminates; or else we can think of the One as just having free-play to do anything it 'likes' - to bring any of its power into play. Or we can just think of the One as just being playful. This playing with the word 'play' reveals its many shades of meaning, of which we can pick whichever we please to apply to Krishna's use of the word in the following quote:
As the spider weaves its thread out of its own mouth, plays with it, and then withdraws it again into itself, so the eternal, unchangeable Lord who is formless and attributeless, who is absolute knowledge and absolute bliss, evolves the whole universe out of himself, plays with it, and again withdraws it into himself. 54
And that great saint of the last century, Shri Ramakrishna said: "God has created the world in play" 55 which echoes an earlier Eckhart quote.
Now in the same way that the One can be said to manifest this world in play, so we can also say that the living Perfect Master 'plays' with his devotees - not so much as in playing games with them (though he may well do this) but in the much wider range of meanings indicated above. For in assuming some of God's functions, the Perfect Master also assumes the ability to play cosmically with his devotees, such as for instance, Krishna's playing with the milk-maids at Vrindavan, or Jesus playing at the marriage feast in Canaan and turning the water into wine.
But the playing is not just for 'fun' in the sense we use the word. It always has the ulterior motive of instructing the devotees or others in some (usually subtle) way. For the purpose of the living Perfect Master is to lead his devotees to that union with non-difference that we have termed 'Knowing the One'; and for this purpose he reveals to them the Knowledge of how to do so. But as we have observed, the devotee will only make full use of the Knowledge and approach that state of Knowing if he has a strong desire to do so. Thus the Perfect Master performs the additional function of keeping the devotee in a state of wanting to Know the One, and as we have seen, the Perfect Master sometimes causes (by his Grace) a set of circumstances to arise which will jolt the devotee out of apathy or laxness for instance, and make him realise the importance of practising the Knowledge. Of course, these 'games' (or 'lilas' as they are called in Sanskrit) are sometimes quite painful for the devotee, and appear at the time quite other than playful, but they are always engineered by the Master's Grace and are always for the devotee's own ultimate good.
The incidents can be called games, playings or lilas, since of course to the Knower of the One, such as a Perfect Master, the diverse is at all times delusion or play.
But rather than just dismiss it as 'delusion', the Master uses it to help in the liberation of his devotees; in other words, he plays with the external world for the sake of his devotee. For although we have noted previously that external things belonging to the world of difference cannot lead to Knowing on their own, they can nevertheless be used by the living Perfect Master to assist the efforts of the devotee to Know the One, though always in a role subsidiary to that of Knowledge. Thus we get the paradoxical situation that the world of difference, which we have seen is the cause of all Unpeace, can be used as a tool by the living Perfect Master to help liberate people from its own message and concomitant Unpeace. This surely deserves the title 'play'.
Complete obedience to the Perfect Master is essential for the devotee's success, and is another facet of the road to Knowing the One which can only be utilised in the case of following a Perfect Master who is alive in the body.
We can note by way of beginning that a master is, by definition, one who is to be obeyed; so a Perfect Master is one who is to be obeyed perfectly or completely. For complete obedience is really a total surrendering of self or ego, and is thus equivalent with total Knowing of the 'I' or One. It is an utter acceptance of everything that happens, since the true devotee knows that everything is the play, and happens by the Grace, of the Perfect Master anyway.
Obedience has no cares; it lacks no blessing. Being obedient, if a man purifies himself, God will come into him in course; for when he has no will of his own, then God will command for him what God would command for himself. When I give my will up to the care of my prelate, and have no will of my own, God must will for me; for if he were to neglect me, he would be neglecting himself. So it is with everything: where I do not choose for myself, God chooses for me. (Eckhart) 56
Whether by 'prelate' Eckhart means his Perfect Master is not clear. In fact Eckhart never makes mention of his own living Perfect Master, and since if we look at Europe at the end of the 13th century there is no obvious candidate for that post, then maybe Eckhart did not have a living Perfect Master. After all, Shankara reckons the odds of Knowing the One without a living Perfect Master as being a billion to one so maybe Eckhart was the one in a billion. 57 Alternatively, he may have got Knowledge from a living Perfect Master who was from Islamic culture, as the Jesuits suggest.58 We do not know.
To refer to the subject of obedience, it is of course commonly held that complete obedience or having no will of one's own is paramount to being a slave, having 'no guts' and just being a vegetable. And of course this is true if we obey utterly anyone other than the living Perfect Master. But total submission of will to that of the Master is nothing else than a recognition of what he is, and is an opening up of oneself to Grace. Indeed, the keynote of Mohammed's teaching was this complete surrendering of self-will and his following was called 'Islam' which means 'submission':
Verily, religion with Allah is submission (islam). (Koran) 59
Obedience is like devotion in that its effect reinforces its cause, so setting up a positive feed-back mechanism. For in obeying the Perfect Master, one opens oneself to his Grace and the benefit of his play or lilas, so that more progress is made towards Knowing the One; and because of this, self and ego are diminished, so that obedience becomes greater, and so the process is repeated, causing a little obedience to automatically become total submission and riddance of self or ego.
Not only is obedience like devotion in this respect, but the two are closely connected in that obedience is really a part of devotion. The Oxford Dictionary defines the verb 'devote' as, among other things, to "dedicate, give up exclusively," which is just what obedience is. Because of devotion for his Perfect Master, the devotee will want to please him and obey his slightest whim, knowing full well that the Master never wants anything but that his followers come to Know the One, and that to obey his wishes is a very great opportunity.
The man who has received my commands and obeys them - he it is who loves me. (Jesus) 60
The act of obeying the Perfect Master is good action, for that is good which pleases him. (Guru Nanak) 61
And after all, as mentioned above, why call our Perfect Master 'Perfect Master' if he is not to be obeyed perfectly?
Why do you keep calling me 'Lord, Lord' - and never do what I tell you? (Jesus) 62
It is commonly held that a life dedicated to finding God must be quiet and contemplative. But the fact is that no Perfect Master has ever sanctioned this viewpoint, and they all stress the need for action.
Never cease to do thy work. (Krishna) 63
The gifts we possess differ as they are allotted to us by God's Grace, and must be exercised. (New Testament, Paul) 64
Action is greater than inaction; perform therefore thy task in life. (Krishna) 65
After all, as Krishna said, when it comes down to it, we cannot avoid action, as was pointed out in the first chapter of this book.
For not even for a moment can a man be without action. Helplessly, are all driven to action by the forces drawn of Nature. (Krishna) 66
But the secret is not to work for self, but to work for realisation of the One; and for the follower of the living Perfect Master, that means to work and do service for the Master. For working for self or ego increases the sense of reality of the diverse, and binds us tighter to it and its Unpeace; but in working for the Perfect Master, then the devotee is working for the benefit of all humanity, including himself. Of course, the Master does not need work to be done for him, but he lets the devotee serve him for his (the devotee's) sake.
For through action, the devotee is manifesting on a physical level his devotion for the Master, and it is another example of how external objects and activities are used by the Perfect Master to supplement the Knowledge in levering the devotee out of attachment to the external and diverse and into Knowing the One. Of course, as we have seen, no external or discursive activity can ever lead to Knowing; what discursive activity in the service of the Perfect aster does is to lessen the bondage of the self, so that it is easier for the devotee to practise the Knowledge. But without the living Perfect Master, service is merely external and can never lead out of Unpeace into Peace. Thus it is considered a very valuable opportunity to serve a living Perfect Master:
With unflagging energy, in ardour of spirit, serve the Lord. (New Testament, Paul) 67
He should look upon his Guru as God. Verily is the Guru the embodiment of divinity. Accordingly, the student must serve him. (Krishna) 68
Indeed, when a devotee is near to Knowing the One in completeness, then every action he does will be for his Master, so great is his devotion, and so he will continually be doing service.
Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. (New Testament, Paul) 69
Offer all thy works to God, throw off selfish bonds, and do thy work. No sin can then stain thee (Krishna) 70
Whatever you are doing, whether you speak or act, do everything in the Name of the Lord Jesus (New Testament, Paul) 71
When work is done for a reward, the work brings pleasure of pain, or both, in its time; but when a man does work in Eternity, then Eternity is his reward. (Krishna) 72
Service is really inseparable from obedience, for often a devotee will not understand why he has to perform a task that the Master sets Him. But if he understands just a little bit what a living Perfect Master is, then he will obey him implicitly and willingly do his allotted task whatever it may be.
An excellent example of this concerns fighting. We normally think that a devotee or Knower of the One should not do violence, which of course he should not do, unless he is told to by his Perfect Master. The Master Knows what is best to do, and to judge his actions or what he asks his followers to do, is the height of folly and pride. Many people do not think highly of Islam because of the fighting that Mohammed did, but it was a great service that he gave his followers, since they did not want to go to war, and it called for great obedience on their part.
Warfare is ordained for you, though it is hateful unto you; but it may be that ye hate a thing which is good for you … Allah knoweth, ye know not. (Koran) 73
And the point is that by doing their tasks for the living Perfect Master, and not for themselves, it must be good, however bad it may appear in the world's eyes. For in obeying the Perfect Master, it is he who takes full responsibility - it is all his play.
Ye slew them not, but Allah slew them. (Koran) 74
By me alone have they already been slain; be thou merely an instrumental cause. (Krishna) 75
Prepare for war with Peace in thyself. Be in Peace in pleasure and pain, in gain and loss, in victory or in the loss of a battle. In this Peace there is so sin. (Krishna) 76
And there are many sayings of Jesus which strike strangely on the ear if we have only the gentle Jesus-meek-and-mild attitude.
The Kingdom of heaven suffereth violence and the violent take it by force. (Jesus) 77
And he that hath no sword let him sell his garment and buy one. (Jesus) 78
Think not that I am come to send peace on earth; I came not to send peace, but a sword. (Jesus) 79
And the disciples had swords, for when Jesus was arrested, Peter drew his sword and cut off someone's ear; and although Jesus told Peter to sheath his sword, he did not tell him off for being violent, but merely rebuked him for trying to stop the soldiers doing what had to be done.80
The reader must understand that we are not condoning war or violence; on the contrary, we hold it to be the most barbaric and inhuman activity that man has devised. The point being made here, is that however bad we think something is, if (and only if) the living Perfect Master tells us to do it, it becomes good, for the Perfect Master can only teach perfection. The utter pomposity and conceit of us judging a Perfect Master by his behaviour, or by any means other than the knowledge he gives, is aptly summed up by Swami Vivekananda speaking of Mohammed:
Mohammedanism deluged the world in the name of the Lord … You people have very hard ideas and are so superstitious and prejudiced! These messengers must have come from God, else how could they have been so great? … Mohammed married quite a number of wives afterwards … The characters of the great souls are mysterious, their methods past our finding out. We must not judge them … Who are you and I? Little babies. What do we understand of these great souls? 81
We can end this chapter, and Part Three, by relating an incident which sums up strikingly the spirit of service to the
living Perfect Master. Mohammed's son-in-law, Ali, was a great devotee, serving his Master with true love and devotion. Once he was on the point of killing someone in battle, when the man spat in his face; Ali turned away and refused to kill the man, because his action would then have been tainted with anger and would thus not have been pure service to his Master. 82
The central theme of this chapter has been that to Know the One we must come in contact with a living Perfect Master (or one of is apostles), for otherwise we cannot get Knowledge (we can only get knowledge).
First we looked at the scriptures again, and showed that when we distinguish between the Perfect Masters speaking of themselves as i) the human being and ii) as the everlasting One, then it is clear that they state that we need a Perfect Master who is alive and in a human body (or who died very recently). Secondly, we summarised seven distinct functions which can only be successfully performed by a living Perfect Master, and which are in practise necessary for a devotee's liberation from Unpeace and into Peace.