Dear Francis, You write in Answer 164, ‘There is no individual, separate consciousness, to whom sitting or anger could occur. Whatever is perceived, anger or anything else, is always really perceived by the only real consciousness there is, which is universal and divine.’ I know this is the crux of your teaching (and of all non-dual traditions), and, after decades of contemplating it, through thinking and meditation, I am still not sure what it means. I have read your books and watched you talk online, and your teaching speaks to me as no other. I have no doubts whatsoever that you are “the real deal” and I know you welcome intelligent questioning and do not shy away from logical argument (as many other “teachers” do), so I do hope you can help me. My problem is in getting past the obvious fact that all human perceptions, from anger to enlightenment and self-realization, occur to individual, separate body-minds. Many people might listen to the same music together, for example, yet their perceptions are unique to themselves, however similar. So: since perceptions are individual, in what sense can consciousness be one and universal? And if consciousness is literally one and universal, how do you account for perceptions being individual? Does “one and universal” simply mean that the consciousness which knows anger or enlightenment in each individual case is identical, in the kind of way that, say, the chemical elements that make up one body are identical (qualitatively) to those that make up all others, whilst being individual (quantitatively) to each and every body? If so, problem resolved for me. If, however, you intend “one and universal” to be taken literally, consciousness being like one big mirror rather than many individual mirrors, as your answer above would seem to indicate, then how is it that my emotions and thoughts are personal to me, and yours to you? One universal mirror would surely reflect all of our mental events for all of us to witness, and there would be no private, individual experiences as such. Secondly, the fact that this isn’t the case, and our thoughts and emotions are personal to each one of us (even to the Self-realized who has seen through the illusion of the person), would seem to suggest that in talking of consciousness as one and universal, you are going beyond the directly known/experienced into the realm of belief/theology. However universal the sage’s experience of consciousness might feel to him, in presenting it as fact, would he not really be merely extrapolating? (The “divine” epithet raises no problem for me since it is purely an evaluative rather than a factually descriptive term.) Love, Gordon.
First I apologize for the delay (due to an overload) in answering your question. I also greatly appreciate the clarity with which you formulated it.
Yes, I intend “one and universal” to be taken literally.
That being said, your first objection is “how is it that my emotions and thoughts are personal to me, and yours to you?” Well, it depends on what “you” and “me” mean. If you mean two different, separate perceivers (which I believe you do), you are making the (not so) implicit assumption that that which perceives is limited and separate, which is what your argument allegedly proves. This is a fallacy, since you use your conclusion (there are two different perceiving entities) as your point of departure.
Your second objection is “One universal mirror would surely reflect all of our mental events for all of us to witness, and there would be no private, individual experiences as such.” You are absolutely right on this point. There are no private, individual experiences as such. Privacy is an illusion, consciousness is not private, but shared by all. Now, I cannot prove that to be true based on phenomenal experience, but I can prove to you that your own experience is not at odds with this possibility, contrarily to what your objection seems to imply. The fallacy of your argument resides in the fact that whatever is phenomenally observed in and by awareness cannot give us any information on the observing awareness, just as a landscape being perceived in consciousness doesn’t tell us anything about the consciousness perceiving it (other than that it exists), for instance whether this consciousness is mortal or not. The limitation of your mind is phenomenally observed. This doesn’t imply that the observing consciousness is limited.
I have to reiterate here that I don’t pretend to logically prove that consciousness is universal rather than limited, but to show that there is no valid evidence that it is not, which paves the way to the ulterior, non-phenomenal revelation that it is.