The Illusion of the Self
We humans suffer from a serious mental illness which results in terrible crimes against others and the earth. Instead of correctly seeing ourselves as nothing other than the one, formless source of all life, consciousness and being, we identify ourselves with our personal narrative sustained by the running commentary in our heads.
Imagine, as a metaphor, that our thoughts – our past, our relationships, our likes and dislikes, our concepts about the world and its objects – are marbles. Imagine a big bowl filled with these diverse, multi-colored and enchanting marbles. Now, imagine ourselves as obsessive marble collectors, that we have insanely mis-identified our true nature as this collection of marbles. In that case, like an obsessive marble collector, we will perpetually be seeking to add another prize specimen to our collection to “complete” it, or, alternatively, be petrified of losing one of the precious marbles in our prize collection. In this way, we, like the obsessive marble collector, by mis-identifying with our collection of thought-forms, will vacillate between excitement to add another marble (another possession, experience, relationship or achievement) to our collection and fear of losing what we have in the unknown future. Because this chronic unhappiness, this emotional roller-coaster, is the necessary outcome of our mis-identification with the mind, our individual existence and its thought-forms, this unhappiness can never end, despite our stringent, but ultimately irrelevant, attempts to either augment or secure our identity.
As another metaphor, imagine a very skilled metal-smith has fashioned a water fountain, the top of which has an intricate network of twisting conduit-pipes and outlets, fashioned so that water coming from the bottom emerges as transient water-sculptures of birds, angels, people, landscapes, etc., in a dizzying show. In this case, our thought forms are the pipes, the conditioning of our culture, gender, race, and past. This conditioning turns the raw power of formless consciousness, the water in the fountain, into the transient, individual consciousness we experience, the show at the top. This is why we only perceive this cosmic consciousness as the transient dance of forms we call our individual life, and this is why it is so easy to mis-identify with the transient, individual self. This is also how it is that cosmic consciousness becomes imprisoned in our individual self. But it is the feeding of the cosmic consciousness that gives us life and is the source for any new idea we have, impulse to act, or creative endeavor. However, because of the conditioning of thought-forms, our creativity and cosmic consciousness become enslaved to supply the freewill to the actions we create to chase after future objects or achievements, or to run away from fears we may imagine. But as soon as one of the watery doves or other transient thought forms we experience disappears, we see the cosmic consciousness once again fall to reality and return to the source, much like the water from the top of the fountain falls back down and soaks into the earth and eventually back to the sea.
By learning to cease identifying with our individual selves and its thought-forms, we may experience the source of cosmic consciousness. We may be spared the agony of recurrent cycles of excitement and fear that ultimately make us miserable.