I have to confess that I was a little taken aback at breakfast this morning when Ellen and I sat down, and Zaya and Maurizio came to sit down with us. Without barely saying hello, Zaya looked me in the eye and said, “Rupert, on the stage last night, I was feeling my inner Rupert, and felt that you were squirming at everything that I said. Was that true?”
Now, I felt in that moment something that an Englishman quite often feels, namely having to make a decision between a polite response and an honest response. Not something that you’re very familiar with in California. Any Englishman in the audience will know what I’m referring to. I love Maurizio and Zaya far too much, and I love what they are doing in this conference far too much, to give them anything other than an honest answer.
I am certainly not going to shred what Maurizio said last night. I’m just going to address one small aspect that Maurizio said – something like, “There is no absolute truth.” At that moment, I found myself on the edge of my chair. I found my saber rattling by my side. So, I trashed what I thought that I might say this evening, and thought that I would address this very common belief, and very understandable belief, particularly in people who wish to truly live the nondual understanding, not at some intellectual level, but at the felt, lived level—this understanding that the absolute is somehow for intellectuals, the absolute is some abstract realm that is cut off from our real, every day, nitty-gritty experience.
So, I’m not going to shred you, Maurizio, far from it, but when I was sitting in my room this afternoon, I thought that I would address this question of the absolute. And so I will start by saying that in order to fully realize and live our humanity, it is first necessary to recognize our divinity. And by divinity, I do not mean some abstract, metaphysical, unknowable realm, beyond experience. I refer to that most intimate, familiar, well-known realm, which is in fact so well known, so intimate, so familiar, that many people overlook it in favor of the drama of experience.
All our lives we make statements such as, “I am six years old. I am 24 years old. I am 37 years old. I am married. I am single. I am a mother. I am a father. I am tired. I am lonely. I am depressed. I am attending a conference. I am listening to a talk,” et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. All these statements we refer to the I that I am, that is subsequently colored or qualified by various feelings, states, thoughts, activities, or relationships. Who is this I that stands in the midst of all experience, but which is itself not an experience? If we go deeply into any experience, however pleasant or unpleasant that experience may be, we find this I, our essential, irreducible self, shining there.
When I say, we find our essential, irreducible self, or being, I do not mean to imply that we are one thing, and our essential irreducible self is another thing. To say so would be to imply that there are two selves, one that finds, and one that is found, one that knows, and one that is known. But each of us knows ourself as only one self. It is we, our essential being, that is prior to experience, and lives at the heart of all experience, that freely assumes the form of all experience—that is thinking, feeling, sensing, perceiving, acting and relating, thereby clothing itself, as it were, in limitations. In doing so, our essential being veils itself with its own activity.
The discovery of our essential being is simply the unveiling of ourself, and the subsequent revelation of the naked truth or reality of our being. Revelation—root from revelare, in Latin, meaning to lay bare—not the discovery of a new self, but rather the laying bare of the naked self, that we always and already are, but which for most people, is obscured or eclipsed by experience. Not that experience is something other than our essential being; it is the activity of our essential being. As such, our own being veils itself with itself, which is no real veiling, just as a movie could be said to be the activity of a screen with which the screen seems to veil itself.
This unveiling process is the process that Ramana Maharshi described as, “Sinking the mind into the heart.” It is the process that the Christian mystics describe as, “The Practice of the Presence of God.” It is the process that Rumi described when he said, “Flow down and down and down, in ever-widening rings of being.” As the apparently separate self, the person we believe and feel ourselves to be sinks deeper and deeper and deeper into its own essence. It is, in most cases, gradually, occasionally suddenly, divested of all the temporal finite qualities or features that it acquires from experience—thinking, feeling, sensing, et cetera—and stands revealed as the essential, irreducible self—not the mystical self, not a higher self, not a spiritual self, but the ordinary, intimate, ever-present self before it is colored and thus seemingly limited by experience.
When everything that can be removed from us is removed from us, that which remains alone shines as I, myself—not an enlightened self, but simply the light of the self, before it has been dimmed by experience. Being prior to, and devoid of, all qualities and conditions our essential, irreducible self is inherently free of the limitations of the finite mind. It is shared by your finite minds, but it is not limited to the qualities of any particular mind. It is, as such, intimate and yet impersonal and infinite. This infinite I, is the self of all selves. It is God’s presence in us as us. It is the infinite self-aware being from which all objects and selves borrow their apparent existence. It is the unnameable reality that cannot be known as an object of experience, and yet is never not known. It is the absolute that shines in and as the relative. It is the divine, whose qualities make us truly human. As such, a truly human being is one in whom the qualities of our essential self shine unobstructed in our thoughts and feelings and express themselves in our activities and relationships.
What are its qualities? Strictly speaking, this infinite, self-aware being, having no limitations, has no form, and having no form, has no qualities. But it is this absence of qualities that shines in us as individuals as the presence of everything that we love and value most in life: truth, love, beauty, freedom, peace. And it is expressed in our activities and relationships that we consider to be truly humane. As God once said, “I have emptied myself of myself, so that you may have the fullness of life.”
What are these empty qualities? Our essential, irreducible self, God’s infinite, self-aware being is without limitation, and this absence of limitations shines in our experience as our love of freedom, and it is expressed in our activities as creativity. Just as the space in this room cannot be moved or agitated by anything that takes place in this room, so our essential, irreducible self, this impersonal intimacy that shines in each of our minds as the knowledge I, or I am, is never disturbed by anything that takes place in experience. This absence of agitation is felt by the individual as peace itself—not a peace that is dependent upon what does or does not take place in experience, but a peace that is prior to, and independent of, all experience, and which at the same time pervades and saturates all experience. It is the peace that passeth understanding.
Just as nothing that takes place in a movie adds anything to, or removes anything from, the screen upon which it appears, so our essential, irreducible self, the self-aware screen upon which, or within which, all experience arises, and ultimately of which all experience is a play, stands to gain nothing nor lose anything from experience. This absence of the sense of lack is experienced by the individual as the fullness of happiness. Being the knowing element in all experience, our essential self does not share the limits of any particular experience. It is, as such, the foundation and the fountain of all relative knowledge and experience. It is that of which all relative knowledge and experience are a fragment, but is itself never fragmented. As pure knowing, it is the beginning and the end of all knowledge. It is, as such, the understanding for which all scientists strive.
Just as nothing that takes place in a dream is at a distance from, or other than, the dreamer’s mind, so nothing that takes place in experience is at a distance from, or other than our essential, irreducible self, or God’s infinite, self-aware being. That is, nothing that takes place in experience is at a distance from the knowing of it. As the Sufi mystic Balyani said, “Otherness for him, is him without otherness.” This absence of otherness, that is inherent in our essential self, is the experience of beauty. As such, beauty is the collapse of the subject and object, the perceiver and the perceived. It is an intervention of reality into our relative world of experience. It is for this reason that in the face of beauty we say things like, “It blew my mind away,” or “It silenced me.” In the experience of beauty, the activity of mind that characterizes the separate self, or ego, comes to an end, and the intimate but impersonal presence that is revealed is the experience of beauty.
Just as no person that appears in a dream is separate from the dreamer’s mind, so our essential self knows no separation. This absence of the sense of separation is from the perspective of the person felt as love. As such, love is not a type of relationship that a person has. It is the ending of relationship. It is the disillusion of the one that would love, and the one that would be loved, and the subsequent revelation of our shared being. It is for this reason that Rumi said, “True lovers never really meet.”
All these qualities belong to the essence of each of our minds and are thus common to all our minds. In other words, these qualities of truth, freedom, love, peace, happiness and beauty are absolute. They have nothing to do with local, temporal, cultural, religious, political or ethnic divisions. They have nothing to do with whether we are a man or a woman, an atheist, a Christian, or a Muslim. They have nothing to do with whether we are a saint or a criminal. They are universal and absolute. It is the extent to which these qualities shine in each of our minds that we are truly human. It is for this reason that the knowledge of our essential, irreducible being is the source of all moral and ethical behavior, and must be the foundation upon which any truly humane person, any institution, and any society stands.
When St. Augustine was asked about moral or ethical behavior, he simply said, “Love, and do whatever you want.” That is, know the absolute reality of yourself that lies at the very heart of yourself, and which yet at the same time is independent of any the qualities or characteristics that are particular to you. The thoughts and feelings that emanate directly from this knowledge, and the activities and relationships that subsequently express them, are the very means by which the absolute truth or reality expresses itself in, and as, our relative experience.
How many people watched a recent series on TV called, The Crown? A few of you. It was a recent series that chronicles the early years of Queen Elizabeth, and in one of the early episodes Queen Elizabeth and her husband, Prince Philip, are making their first tour of duty around the Commonwealth, and they are on board the royal jet. And Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister of the day, boards the plane to give his final briefing to the Queen as to her duties as a Queen, and to bid the royal couple farewell. And at the end of the briefing, he takes the Queen’s hand, looks her in the eye, and says, “Ma’am, remember, when people see you, they should see eternity.”
Remember, that when people see you, you must stand, first and foremost, for eternity—that is for the absolute truth, not a conceptual, mystical, abstract, unknowable truth, but the intimate, impersonal, unchanging truth of our own being, which is the foundation of civilization. Not only is the memory of our eternity the essential ingredient of any individual’s search for peace and fulfillment, but it also the founding principle upon which any institution must be based, if that institution is going to be of service to humanity—whether that institution is a spiritual community such as this, a financial corporation, or a government. In the absence of a knowledge of eternity, that is bereft of the absolute truth of our experience, even a well-meaning spiritual community descends into spiritual materialism.
A financial corporation, when cut off from the principles that are implicit in the absolute truth, becomes perverted by greed and corruption. And a government that has lost touch with the integrity that is implicit in the absolute truth, descends into tyranny or anarchy. If our political leaders do not stand, first and foremost, for these qualities—that is, if leaders do not represent the absolute truth and tailor that truth to the requirements of situations as they arise, then their behavior paves the way for the disintegration of society. Such a society is deprived of the guiding principles of democracy. Indeed, the very foundations of civilization as we know it are threatened.
It is for this reason that we as individuals and the leaders of our communities have a sacred duty to investigate, first and foremost, the essential reality of our experience, and keep on exploring it until we arrive at something that is true, not only for ourselves in every moment of experience, but for all people at all times, in all situations, and under all circumstances. Only that knowledge can be said to be absolutely true, and that knowledge must be the knowledge upon which all our thoughts and feelings, and their subsequent expression in our activities and relationships, must be based, if we are to consider ourselves truly human. Indeed, I would suggest that that knowledge is the source of the peace and the love and the fulfillment for which all people long and, being the only thing that all people have in common, must be the foundation of any society that wishes to live in peace and harmony with each other and their environment.
Indeed, this knowledge—the absolute knowledge of our own being, its knowledge of ourself in us—is the only knowledge there is that could serve as a foundation for world peace, because it is the only knowledge there is that is the same for all people, at all times, in all circumstances, and under all conditions. So, I return to where I started. In order to fully realize and live our humanity, it is first necessary to recognize our divinity.
This is the text of Rupert Spira’s presentation at SAND18 US in San Jose, California on October 26, 2018. You can watch the video