Because we believe ourselves to be individuals with separate identities, when we consider the concept of “discovering who we really are”, we believe that what we will find is an individual identity, our own personal soul. But to realise the Self does not mean to discover any kind of separate identity that we can call “I”. The true Self is not individual or personal. The true Self, the Self of Self-realisation, is transpersonal. It is beyond all notions of separation and individuality. The best that we can do to describe what the Self is all about is to use words like Beingness and Oneness. There is no “I”, there is only Being or Beingness. There is no separation, there is only Oneness.
Much of the confusion arises because people who become Self-realised start their lives in the same way that we all do, identified as being separate individuals. They then become Self-realised and we continue to believe that they remain separate individuals. But although the Self-realised person has a body (the outer appearance of separate identity) his individual “I-ness” has been dissolved into the transpersonal Self. He is still able to move around in the physical body and to answer questions so to all intents and purposes he appears to continue his existence as an individual. But what is really happening is that the pure light of being is expressing itself through this person’s mind and body, giving rise to the impression of separate and individual identity.
Similarly, although we talk about the spiritual path and the path to Self-realisation, in truth the path is nothing but a figure of speech.
So if there really is no path and no individual Self to discover, why talk in terms of a path to Self-realisation at all? The short answer is this: we identify with our minds and bodies and consequently we believe in the reality of time, space, discoveries and journeys. Ultimately, to realise our true nature, we need to go beyond identification with mind and body, but because we do identify with mind and body, one of the first questions we are going to ask is “how do I realise the Self?”
Now we could say that there is no “how”, that there is no Self, that there is no path and so on, but this would probably not provide much succour to an enquiring mind.
The mind revels in notions of journeys, adventures, discoveries and puzzles. It loves to work out the “how to” of things. It needs to know. From this accumulation of data it builds an identity. It says “my name is…, I am a… and I know how to…” This identity is based on data and memory.
This identity begins to believe that there is some greater truth to be discovered and that the way to discover this truth is to embark on a journey of discovery. But when we read the spiritual and mythical legends of old, how many times do we find that what the adventurers were really seeking was staring them in the face from the very beginning and that their journeys ultimately lead them back to the place where they started?
We embark on journeys of discovery because this is what the mind believes in. Journeys are the way of mind. When I say that “this is what the mind believes in”, I am not talking of the kind of belief that you can consciously choose to adopt or discard – I am talking about the kind of belief that has its roots so deep you don’t even see it as a belief. Instead of being like an app that you downloaded to your computer, it is more like part of the operating system itself. Knowing how things work and going on a journey of discovery form part of the very architecture of mind itself. Without these concepts your experience of life would be radically altered.
But to change someone’s mind so radically and abruptly is potentially dangerous. You can’t go pulling the rug out from under people’s feet if you don’t leave them some kind of solid ground on which to stand.
So, you identify with your mind, you believe that there must be a path and that you need to embark on a journey of Self-discovery, and so I aim to help by providing some way-markers and signposts for your journey. In the end you will realise that your journey has taken you to many places, but that they all existed within your mind. You had to journey to the far flung reaches of your mind in order to step outside of mind altogether.
When you begin to see the light of the Self you will see with greater clarity the route that you have taken and you may begin to question whether you needed to travel anywhere at all. You may even wonder why someone didn’t bother to tell you before you set off, and then perhaps you may consider what you will say to others who are starting out on their own journeys of Self-discovery. If we tell people that there is no path and nowhere to get to, they may not apply themselves to any kind of practice and consequently not advance in any way, but if we lead them to believe too strongly in the process of journeying we may serve only to lock them in to the concept of discovery without ever helping them to reach their destination.
Your goal is to travel beyond mind and beyond concepts to realise the ultimate truth. To do this you will need to journey through mind and you will need to learn new concepts to help you to undo some of the older ones and ultimately go beyond concepts altogether. Your journey starts in the mind and your destination is Self-realisation. As the ground begins to shift beneath your feet you will increasingly seek something to hold onto. That something is your very essence which I call The Light Within. Everything you need at any given moment will come from within if only you allow it. The concepts introduced in this book are not intended to lock you in to a new set of limitations and beliefs – they are intended to help you to connect to and ultimately become the expression of that light within you.
And so the essence of this book is two-fold: to guide you in some small way on your journey and to remind you that there really is no journey which needs to be made.
As Neo is told in the film The Matrix when he encounters the young boy who can seemingly bend spoons with his mind, “Do not try to bend the spoon – that is impossible. Instead, only try to realise the truth.” When Neo asks “What truth?” he is told that there is no spoon. “Then you will see that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself.”
Self-realisation and beyond
For some people Self-realisation comes in a flash, all of a sudden, whereas for others it is a gradual awakening. Furthermore, although we may use the metaphor of climbing a mountain to symbolise the journey towards Self-discovery, in truth there is no final destination but yet further degrees of awakening.
But beyond a certain point the language of the mind becomes insufficient to describe the landscape of the Self-realised experience. The Self-realised person still has a unique collection of memories, habits and behaviourisms, all of which give the impression or illusion of an individual identity. In fact one could argue that the Self-realised person continues to have individuality even if they consider themselves to have no individual identity. But what we can say about what it is like to be Self-realised is limited. Along with words such as Being, Beingness and Oneness, we find ourselves having to think and speak in impersonal terms. Instead of “I am thinking” we see that “thoughts arise” and “thoughts are observed”. Observation and witnessing are two popular words for describing the Self-realised state.
*** This chapter is taken from my book The Light Within ***