I have said on a number of occasions that there are no natural barriers between where we are currently in our spiritual understanding and where we could be in our experience of the soul. There are, however, plenty of unnatural barriers, all of which have to do with erroneous perception. As I point out, the most prominent of these is the generally accepted belief in the concept of the evolving soul. A major contributor to this belief is the statement popularized by the well-known metaphysical writer, Emmet Fox: Life is consciousness.
Fox’s use of the term consciousness is different from the nondualist’s use of the same word. Within the framework of nonduality, consciousness is the changeless, underlying reality behind all that is seen. Think of it as the ocean water that engulfs and permeates the sponge. In our spiritual vocabulary, we would call this God or Divine Mind. In this context, life and consciousness are indeed synonymous. But Fox is not referring to life or consciousness as ultimate reality. Life, in his formula, is a reference to our quality of experience. Consciousness is considered the sum of our beliefs which, as I have mentioned previously, is actually my preferred use of the term.
Rather than saying life is consciousness, it would be more accurate to say the quality of our experience is influenced by the sum of our beliefs. Simply changing our beliefs, however, does not assure a change in the quality of our experience. Imagine you are blindfolded and someone sets a bowl of water on the table before you. They tell you the water is scalding hot and you believe them. Another person comes in and explains that the first person was wrong. The water is actually freezing cold. They sound so convincing you now believe them. Does either belief have anything to do with the actual temperature of the water?
Now imagine that you reach out and dip your fingers in the water. You instantly know the truth about its temperature. The water, you find, is cool. Now if someone comes forward and tells you the water is scalding hot or freezing cold, you know the truth. This truth sets you free from all ignorance about the water’s temperature.
In the spiritual context, let’s say you are feeling frustrated with your seeming lack of progress. Someone explains to you that you are frustrated because you have much to learn. They give you book after book, which you eagerly consume. The problem is, the more you read, the less you feel you know. You encounter a situation that sends you on an emotional roller coaster, you remember the wise words of the author who explained that appearances are surface anomalies that have no power. But you obviously allow this appearance to overpower you. You conclude that you lack much in the department of spiritual understanding. So you go back to your book where you hope to draw more strength and comfort.
While the author may not be giving you false information, it is not your information, your experience. He or she is telling you the water is cool but to you it appears to be hot. You like what they are telling you, but it goes against your belief system. Your head is filled with their information, but your heart is full of yours. In theory, their words are inspiring. In practice, they seem impractical. Why? Because you obviously have much to learn. So back to your library you go!
Life itself is not what you believe it is. Your experience of life is influenced by what you believe it is. Life is a cool bowl of water whose temperature never fluctuates. Your experience of life is you wearing a blindfold projecting the beliefs of others onto this bowl.
Let’s shift to another metaphor. You have come to believe that life is a maze full of unpredictable twists and turns that only the most enlightened spiritual master can successfully navigate. You were dropped into the middle of this maze, either by choice or against your will, and it is now up to you to figure out how to get out of it. You resign to wandering through it for as many lifetimes as it takes. You experience one dead end after another. You are told that you can be happy and free right where you are, so you conclude that happiness is found in making peace with dead ends.
Have you ever noticed that when you were young you encountered dead ends? Now that you are older you are still encountering dead ends. Will the day come when there will be no more dead ends?
Suppose you stumble upon a ladder that allows you to climb above the walls of the maze. As you look about, you see something very interesting. You see the exit. From this point you trace the path that leads to your position and you quickly find your way out of the maze. The maze has nothing to teach you about life outside of its borders. The power of the maze, in fact, is nothing more than your belief system that is void of the vision offered by the ladder.
In the examples of the bowl of water and the maze, the game changer is actual experience. The experience of dipping your own fingers in the water instantly tells you the truth. The experience of climbing the ladder and seeing the exit from the maze also instantly tells you the truth. Likewise, the way to solve the mystery of the water’s temperature and the way out of the maze is through direct experience with the truth of life. To achieve this, you stop associating life with your erroneous perception of the world around you. Your false understanding of the water and your groping through the maze is not life. Life is the truth of the actual water temperature and the freedom outside the maze. The truth of life–life itself–is as accessible to you as the bowl of water and the world outside the confusing maze. How do you access life?
The value of embracing the truth that your soul is now complete is found in the acceptance that the thing you are seeking is present in its fullness. You do not have to wander through the maze for another four months. You can lift up your eyes by climbing the ladder and seeing for yourself that the way out is present and has always been present.
Here is an important key: The way out has nothing to do with learning all about dead ends, which is all the maze will teach you. Who wants to be the master of dead ends? You will not gain the insight you are looking for by studying your problems. Think back to the illustration in a previous posting of the sponge immersed in the ocean. Where is the ocean in relation to the sponge? It is everywhere, inside and outside. The sponge lives and moves and has its being in the ocean. It does not go somewhere else to get it. It does not study hard to make the ocean more accessible.
The peace we seek is not found in resolving issues and solving the riddles of dead ends or water temperatures. Our peace is found in the actual experience of the energy of divine life that courses through our being. If you turn your attention away from solving the problems of your life and focus instead on experiencing the truth of who and what you now are, your entire consciousness will change. It will shift from the uncertainty and fallibility of belief to the actual experience of the truth that you are now free. You may spend times in quiet reflection of this truth but you may also consciously bring it into the broad daylight of your daily experience.
Life is not your consciousness. Life is your very essence. God is life, love, power and intelligence expressing as you. Accept your completeness. Remove the blindfold. Climb the ladder of knowing that you are not destined to wander in this silly maze. You will find the energy of life rising into your awareness in ways that clear your vision and your understanding. You are now free to live life beginning right where you are.