The more you love, the more connected you feel to all things, the more you feel like you and the Universe are One.
Duality and Non-duality
So, we've talked about interconnectedness, and how expanding your
ability to perceive at different levels of consciousness expands your sense of interconnection to other beings. If you can expand this interconnection far enough, you can feel "at one" with the entire Universe. This is known as "Unity Consciousness," and it is the goal of most spiritual paths. You may even have experienced this consciousness for brief periods in your life—for example, during deep meditation. Unity consciousness is the opposite of "Separation Consciousness"— where you feel isolated, alone, and separated from other beings. Separation Consciousness and Unity Consciousness are also known as Duality and Non-duality. Duality is where you perceive "I" and “Other"—2 separate entities—hence "dual" or two, while Non-duality is where you perceive only One—Unity.
As with the notion of multi-dimensionality, you will perceive more clearly if you approach these concepts without judgment. It is tempting to think of Duality as "bad" and Unity as "good," but that is actually an intrinsically dualistic way of thinking. Anything that separates or polarizes is Dual: good and bad, smart and stupid, beautiful and ugly, even light and dark, love and fear—these are all Dualities. We are here to learn Balance—that is, to discern when it is appropriate to use one form of perception over another. Discernment is not judgment; discernment has no emotional charge, only a Knowing. Recognize that from Unity's point of view, both Duality and Non-duality are currently valuable; that's why they're present in the universe. (In fact, at a certain level, from Unity's point of view, Duality and Non-duality are actually One. This is a hard concept when you are in Duality, but it is ultimately true.)
Now—without being judgmental—it is also true that Duality is more limiting than Non-duality; its point of view is "smaller," while Non-duality's is "bigger." This is because non-duality doesn't seek to separate or polarize. It therefore allows a broader perspective. Within non-duality, everything simply is. Within duality, some things are "not allowed;" therefore its perspective is smaller.
But being smaller or more limited is not necessarily "bad." Limitation helps to focus your attention. If you've ever done any photography, you know that there is a great art to "framing" a shot—stepping forward and backward and sideways until you get exactly—and only—those components of a scene that you want in your photo, leaving out those things that would distract when you look at the final image. A different photographer, shooting the same scene, might select different objects to frame in the shot, and neither choice is "wrong," only different. Or consider cooking: you only put certain ingredients into your bread or your casserole or your salad, and leave out others. Limitation is a form of choice, and it is accepted by choice. When you're eating, you hopefully stop when you're full. Limitation isn't "bad," it's just ... limiting. Balance is knowing when limitation is necessary and when it can be put aside.
So Duality is like a subset of Non-duality, a smaller chunk that excludes larger portions of the non-dual whole. Duality makes choices that separate, that judge, that disallow.
This, then, creates an interesting scenario, for it means that to perceive Duality, you must ignore all of the non-dual interconnections that actually exist. To go back to the mountain-climbing example, it is like being at the top of the mountain on a clear day—where you have the ability to see a vast panorama—and instead of taking in that panorama, you focus a telescope on two blades of grass at the bottom of the mountain and refuse to look at anything else. You sort of "pretend" that nothing else exists, even though if you just take your eye away from the telescope for a moment, you can see there's a whole lot more. To stay in the "illusion," you have to focus very tightly on those two blades of grass, pressing your eye socket into the telescope's eyepiece and shutting the other eye very hard; otherwise you will be distracted by everything else around you. How do we, as humans, manage to do this?? And more importantly, Why would we want to??? Read on...
THE GRAND EXPERIENCE--PART I
It is a great thing to come to Earth.
You experience a different kind of One.
The Grand Experience
Imagine that you are an infinite, immortal being. You are always changing, yet always the same (like an ocean). You are infinitely creative and infinitely curious. You are particularly curious about things that really stretch you. Being infinite and immortal, you know that you are connected to everything and that you cannot die. You are composed of a strange substance called love energy. It is all you've ever been composed of. It is all that is. You have an infinite capacity for joy, pleasure, delight, and the love from which you are made. As a creative being, you come up with all kinds of games and explorations and projects that involve joy, pleasure, delight and love, and only those things. They're great projects.
But at some point you think, "These are great projects, but what else am I capable of? What would I learn if joy, pleasure, delight and love weren't the only ingredients I had to work with? What other kind of ingredients are there? Can I make something completely different?" You think it would be really fun to find out.
So you try to imagine what else there might be besides love. Since you are made of love, and so is everything else, this is a bit tricky. But you eventually conceive the ideas of Opposite and Other; in short, you conceive the idea of Duality. You are infinite; the Opposite of that is finite. You are immortal; the Opposite of that is mortal. You imagine what it might be like to live in this "other" way: non-infinite and non-eternal, finite and mortal, bounded and ephemeral.
But you know it is not enough to simply imagine. You realize that to really appreciate and understand these new ideas, you need to immerse yourself in them, and for that, you need a structure that supports them. Being very creative, you create Time. That supports mortality. It allows for transience, impermanence, the opposite of eternal. You also create Matter. That supports finiteness. It is hard and solid and bounded by edges and limitations—the opposite of infinite. You make Time and Matter interdependent—to allow for a nice 100% immersion of experience into this new state of non-immortality and non-infinity. And then you create the master stroke: to really immerse yourself into this new system, you need a way to totally believe in it while you're there, so you create something called "Forgetting". You forget what you're really made of. You forget who you really are. You forget that Time and Matter are just fabricated things that you manufactured for this project, and you enter into Time and Matter and pretend they are all of reality. And this allows you to forget that you are made of love. This allows for a whole new range of experiences. It allows for Opposite and Other and Separate and Dual and Fear and Pain and Sadness and Loss to all feel real. It allows for Joy and Pleasure and Delight and Love to be experienced in a new way, because they are now Other; they have Opposites; they are no longer the only way. Now, of course, everything—even "Other"—is still all made of love energy, because that's all there is, really. But now it feels different. It has been stretched.
You don't know for certain what you will learn from this project, but you are eager to find out. You are quite confident that you will learn, and that it will be worthwhile, and you have no fears about "being able" to do whatever is necessary, because you are infinite and immortal—What's to worry about? You imagine the project will be a long one, but that's okay; you are, as just said, immortal, and anything worth doing is worth doing profoundly, so you set aside a lot of this "Time" stuff, and you create a whole system of sub-structures for immersing yourself into this created reality.
You do set up one ultimate Goal for the project: you set up the goal of Returning Home, of "Remembering". That is, as you gather new and different experiences and ways of being and creating in this neat new system, you also set up the desire to find a way back to who you really Are—to find a way through the illusion of non-immortality and non-infiniteness and things-other-than-love, back to the infinite, immortal, all-loving You. You make sure that the system is filled with hints and clues to remind you of this. You make sure it has tools and techniques and points at which memory can flood back in—even if only in little spurts. You set up rules for the game, and you set up many rest periods, when you get to step out and take a break, because you know that it might be hard, it might be tiring, to maintain the illusion of Forgetting.
THE GRAND EXPERIENCE--PART II
This is the Grand Experience. Earth is one of the planets participating. It's probably not the only planet doing so, but it's the only one we know for certain is involved at this time. Everyone and everything on Earth, and the Earth itself, are all part of the experience. Here, we can experience non-infinity and non-eternity. Here, we can experience separation, duality, and the many opposites to love—things like fear, anger, shame, guilt, despair, etc. We are learning from all these things, but there is great paradox here. For example, Death provides the necessary "time-outs" when we can take a break from the game, but it is also one more Separator, one more source of fear. For many of us, even the "time-in's" have been proving very painful and difficult. We've learned to be afraid. It's exhausting. This was always part of the project, but we wonder: Did that infinite creative being know how much this was going to hurt?? Did that being know how overwhelming the Forgetting would be? How hard it would be to Remember??
Well, any answer other than "Yes" is Dualistic—and therefore probably not complete. But any complete answer will probably feel like a paradox. It is true that if you, as that infinite and infinitely-creative being, had known the answers before embarking on the project, you wouldn't have needed to embark in the first place. So to some extent, you are surprised by whatever is happening now. But at the same time, there is a level at which you also know that you are still that infinite and eternal being, always safe, always love, and already One with the outcome of the experience (since you are One with everything, including Time). Some part of you is always aware that this entire system is just a created thing, that you are engaged in it by choice, can leave if you want to, and that any pain and other unpleasantness is just part of the illusion you created by Forgetting, part of the illusion of the Separation into finiteness and mortalness. But the pain feels so real. But that was the point. So it's a paradox.
And you remember that you built paradox into the system. You are both Dual and Non-Dual, Separate and Unified; you are both Mortal and Immortal; Finite and Infinite; Knowing and yet still Forgetting. The connections are all still there, whether you are consciously aware of them right now or not. The connections provide the way back. You remember that there are hints and clues built into the system, and that help is available. You just have to ask. You just have to look. You are bigger than your current chosen mode of awareness may make you think you are. You remember that you are doing all of this for a Reason, a Goal. The way back does exist. What are you gathering while you are on that way? The real question to ask is "What am I learning from all of this?"
This is the great question that the Grand Experience was created to explore. What are you learning? How are you growing?
It is probably not possible, as long as you are still immersed in the Forgetting, to fully answer either of these questions, but you can certainly make a start. It is also probably not possible, as long as you are still immersed in the Forgetting, to know if what you are learning is "Worth It", but assuming that it IS makes answering the other questions easier, since it expands your perspective by removing the limitation of resentment.
Remember, there's nothing wrong with focusing on a blade of grass; it's very nice. But it's not the whole picture, especially not when you actually live up at the top of a mountain. Yet every smaller picture that makes up the larger one also has value. What are you learning? How are you growing? How does this focus help you find the way back to who you really are? If there is pain, what is it teaching you? Where are the hidden things coming out of hiding? And what is that teaching you? If you're really made of love, where are the clues? Where is your infinite curiosity, infinite creativity, and true nature making itself manifest within the limitations you've set up to frame this photograph??
Since you are intimately connected to everything, everything you do affects everything else.
Webster's dictionary has several definitions for the word "evolution"; the first one is "an unfolding; a process of opening out what is contained or implied in something." We are used to thinking of this in relation to biological creatures on Earth, where evolution can involve either an unfolding of Form (body shape, color, size, functional features, etc.), or an unfolding of Culture (social relationships, use of tools, art, architecture, ways of thinking, etc.). But evolution doesn't just apply to Earth and Earth creatures. It applies to the entire Universe. Everything is unfolding, in both form and consciousness.
Remember in Lesson 1 we said everything is conscious. Now in Lesson 2 we say everything is imbued with infinite and eternal creative energy—by choice and by design. It isn't just humans who are "here to learn something." Everything is here to learn something. And everything is evolving to learn it. And everything is, at some level, really still that one infinite creative being who is both the experiencer and the experience, and so everything in this universe is not just learning, but also teaching. This is co-evolution.
Co-evolution means mutually evolving, evolving together as one, so that when you change, you affect everything you're connected to—and vice versa. This would follow from everything being connected: as any one part of the system changes, those changes "ripple" outward into the entire system. So, when you find an answer to the questions "What am I learning from all of this?" and "How am I growing?" you can only answer for yourself, but you are also helping that infinite, creative being to answer the question too. All of this is all of that. We are One. Your growth affects the creative being's growth and vice versa, and that affects everything in the universe—which is also all the creative being. Your answers and your further questions are all vitally important. Your life is important. You are part of the Grand Experience, and that has value. Your thoughts, hopes, wishes, feelings, ideas, everything—ripple out into the whole, and you catch all the ripples the whole is sending back. Your evolution matters. And you feel the evolution of the whole.
Recognize that this works in both directions in a dualistic system. Feeling the evolution of the whole means you also feel any devolution. That is, if you attain a higher level of consciousness, that helps someone else attain it too, but at the same time, if someone else gets stuck, that affects your possibility of getting stuck as well. We're all in this together. At the same time, one of the gifts of Duality and Separateness is being able to disengage from someone else's stuckness if you choose to. Because you can perceive that "someone else" as an Other, you can perceive your own experience as allowing choices which that Other may not be making. This is part of what is meant by today's buzz phrase "You create your own reality." This phrase is not entirely accurate, since you are really co-creating a reality. That is to say that you, along with 6.3 billion other people (not to mention everything else on the planet), are constantly negotiating what happens here—which is what co-evolution means. However, you do have options that aren't completely tied to other people's choices. We will be talking more about this in later lessons.
Remember always that an infinite creative being is constantly pouring love into this system to keep it going, and that you are part of that being. When you pour your own human love in, you expand the whole system. The "hints and clues" include vast networks of feedback loops and other structures for communication. The connections are there; the doors are there; you just need the right keys to link and open them. The biggest key is love energy itself.
And so on throughout the Universe.
NOTES, REFERENCES AND ADDITIONAL READING LIST
The Grand Experience
Another way to think about "Forgetting" is to think of your favorite movie: how many times have you seen it? Remember the first time? Wouldn't it be nice to be able to see it for the first time again? That's what "Forgetting" enables you to do.
Some books to continue the exploration:
- "Illusions: the Memoirs of a Reluctant Messiah" by Richard Bach (1977). This is a fun little novel exploring some of the concepts of multidimensional perception, and an answer the question "Why are we here?"
Many people refer to our system as a "hologram" or as being "holographic" in nature. A hologram is a flat, two-dimensional "photograph" of a 3-dimensional object that contains within itself 3-dimensional information. As you move your vision over the 2-dimensional photograph, different parts of the original 3-dimensional object can come into view, almost as if you were actually walking around the object itself. A single piece of a holographic image contains enough information to reproduce the whole. That means if you tear off a corner of a hologram, you will still be able to see the whole object in it that you could see in the original hologram itself. The part contains the whole. This is a paradox, but it is the case. So similarly, the idea of our co-evolutionary system is that every part of the system is "enfolded into" every other part on some level; put another way, the entire system is also contained within any one of the parts. This is yet another reason why you may hear that "you are the universe and the universe is you." When you evolve, you influence everything else in the system because, at a certain level, you contain everything else in the system. You are infinitely intertwined with yourself.
For some books on this idea, see:
- "The Holographic Universe" by Michael Talbot (1991)
- "Wholeness and the Implicate Order" by David Bohm (1980)