Let us try a mental exercise.
First, let us imagine that we are people seeking forever to establish the future conditions under which we will be happy. Let’s identify happiness as various conditions – perhaps financial security, the sense of “belonging” to a tribe, physical health, and intelligence. Pretty much anything that falls under the blanket of “self improvement” will do. Let’s call this the “practical people” approach.
Second, let us imagine that we are people seeking to establish a full sense of relationship between ourselves, the world, and God. This time, let’s identify happiness as the ideal arrangement of three moving pieces that we’ve decided exist here and now. Pretty much anything that falls under the blanket of non-mystical “spirituality” will do nicely on this one. We’ll call this the “religious people” approach.
The goal of our mental exercise is to determine which approach is the more “true.”
To start, we’ll isolate each of these chess pieces so that we can understand how they can be played. We have placed markers on us as a people, the future as a place, happiness as a condition, the world as something apart from ourselves and God, and God as something apart from ourselves and the world.
Let’s start with the future – what is it? Each moment arises, and as it dies it leaves residues we collect and call “memories.” Only when we put our current attention on memories, which is not the theoretical “past” but instead just this aggregation of consciousness, can we reason that new memories will come to be. Future is a projection – a product of reasoning, only. Examining residue, we seek to position the present so that we will gather certain new residues. And all this happens on an imagined timeline, and we call that timeline “I” – without memories and the struggle to create new residues based on the collection of old residues, there is no “I.” But the timeline itself, the ego, is also inference only – we have never yet directly encountered a single timeline in sensory experience.
Well, if the future is just one part of a mental timeline and each of us is also just a mental timeline, then “us” is simply the set of all such mental timelines. It is just another layer of abstraction.
How about “happiness”? For the most part, we mean new memories – residues – of peacefulness, fulfillment, or just satiation. When we’re happy, we never stop to think about happiness – but when we’re not, then we start seeking it. Happiness as a desired condition only exists when we are trying to run away from direct experience – it’s a subjective evaluation of one point or another on a mental timeline, nothing more.
Looking again at the first situation – to say “we are people seeking forever to establish the future conditions under which we will be happy”, we are saying “all these timelines will hopefully stop fluctuating, and hopefully the permanent condition of the flat timelines will be pleasant.” Well, that’s nothing more than saying “with enough timeline work, timelines cease.”
We’ve covered “ourselves” – that imagined set of timelines. So let’s move onto “the world.” Where in experience do we encounter “the world”? We never do. When I sit and enjoy the sunrise, there is neither “I” nor the “sunrise” – just the experience of the sunrise, which is neither. Then, stopping and thinking about it, I break it out into parts – there is “me”, there is the “sunrise”, and then there is the connection or “experience.” Taking these parts and plotting them on a map of space, we arrive at an intersection of the timeline with three-dimensional space.
But time and space didn’t exist during the experience – they were only added post-mortem.
What about “God”? Well, looking at it, it’s the same sort of dissection that lead us to this concept. There’s a certain sort of acceptance and happiness we call “faith”, and when it’s examined for cause of death after the fact, we arrive at ideas of the soul, of God, and of spirituality. But none of these existed during the experience itself.
The sunrise and “I” are not separate. God and “I” are not separate. Until we stop and think about it, there is one eternal moment covering all of existence where the sunrise, “I”, and God simply are, indivisible.
The second situation – to say “we are people seeking to establish a full sense of relationship between ourselves, the world, and God” is actually something like “when we stop to think about experience, we break it into parts – and we wish they weren’t in parts.” Okay, that’s a little easier to boil down, it seems – it’s something like “with enough division, the parts will be one whole.”
Is the “practical people” or the “religious people” approach more “true”? If truth is objective, then the question is like asking whether a smell is orange or purple. If the truth is relative, the mental exercise is nothing more than a mouth trying to eat itself. It’s a game of absurdity.
Our analytical minds are incredibly useful for many things, but they can’t be used to destroy the very chess pieces they create. The “problem” of seeking eternity and unity is the strange desire to play a game so that you don’t have to play it. It is running from fear out of fear, it is trying to escape the vehicle you made for escaping.
Because we fear the ending of the timeline, we seek to stop the timeline. Because we fear separation, we isolate ourselves. This is the divided mind.
Stop striving, and all is accomplished. Stop creating the timeline, and all is One. This is the whole mind.