How does something that is infinite take on the appearance of something that is finite? How does Consciousness appear to itself as a multiplicity and diversity of selves and objects?
In an attempt to answer this question I’d like to give you an analogy. Imagine a woman named Mary falling asleep here in Titignano. Mary’s mind is a single indivisible whole, like each of our minds, and Mary dreams that she is Jane walking the streets of New York. So, Mary’s mind has fallen asleep to its own infinite, indivisible nature and imagines instead that it has assumed the limited form of Jane’s mind. Jane is walking the streets of New York, seeing people, cars, buildings, which from Jane’s point of view all seem to be outside her mind.
When Jane closes her eyes the streets of New York disappear, and therefore she legitimately concludes that whatever it is that is seeing the streets of New York lives just behind her eyes. This and similar experiences convince Jane that the knowing with which she knows her experience lives just behind her eyes, or in her chest, in her body. All her thoughts, feelings and subsequent other activities and relationships are consistent with this belief.
One day Jane goes to a café, and sitting at the table next to her is a handsome man called David. David and Jane notice each other, they start having a conversation, and Jane feels a mysterious attraction to him.
Of course, David and Jane, the café and the streets of New York are all appearances in Mary’s infinite mind. Mary’s mind itself has not been divided into a multiplicity and diversity of objects and selves. It is still the same seamless, indivisible whole that it always is, and yet it has taken on the appearances of Jane and David, and the world in which they seem, from their point of view, to be located. Mary could have dreamt that she was David, instead of Jane, on the streets of New York, in which case she would have seemed to see her experience through David’s eyes instead of Jane’s.
When Jane feels this mysterious attraction towards David and they begin dating, she has a strange feeling that if she were to get closer to David, the pain that she feels in her heart, that she has been trying to escape from all her life, would somehow be alleviated. She feels that somehow to merge with David would give her relief from the pain from which she has been running all her life.
Eventually she and David do get together, and when they merge in friendship and sexual intimacy, she does indeed feel temporary relief from the pain of her longing. What is really happening? Why does Jane feel this longing? From where does the intuition come that it is possible to be relieved of her suffering? And what happens to her suffering when she and David merge?
In this moment of merging there is a temporary loss of all the limitations with which Jane defines herself. There is a temporary collapse of Jane’s finite mind, and in that moment she tastes the essence of her mind, which is Mary’s peaceful mind asleep in Titignano.
Now, of course, when Jane and David part, this temporary suspension of suffering comes to an end and she feels everything that defines her again. The suffering bubbles up again and she remembers, ‘Ah, the last time I united with David the suffering went away. Therefore, uniting with a person, an object, a substance or an activity must be the way to get rid of my suffering.’
So Jane goes again and again to the object, the substance, the activity or the relationship, in order to find relief from her suffering. Indeed, each time she unites with the object, activity, substance or relationship she does find temporary relief, and this builds up in her the conviction that the way to be free of her suffering is to continually acquire objects, activities, substances and relationships. She ends up being addicted, like most people are, to some kind of an object.
The subtlest object, of course, is thought, and this is the main addiction. It’s free and not bad for our health, so it’s an addiction that doesn’t normally get labelled as such. Nevertheless, it is an object towards which we give our attention, mainly in order to distract ourselves from the wound of separation that all apparently separate selves carry around within themselves.
This wound of separation, this longing for freedom, peace, happiness and love is, in fact, an echo in Jane of the nature of Mary’s mind. Mary’s mind is at peace, free, asleep in Titignano.
This longing for freedom, for peace, for happiness that each of us feels is the echo in each of our finite minds, the echo of the true freedom of infinite Consciousness. There is no other freedom than the freedom of infinite Consciousness. Infinite Consciousness is freedom, peace and happiness itself, and the desire that each of us feels for that freedom, peace, happiness and love is the pull that infinite Consciousness exerts on the finite mind.
The finite mind feels that pull in the form of suffering: ‘I long for happiness’. The separate self feels that it is doing the longing, but it is not. It is infinite Consciousness that is exerting a force on the finite mind, drawing it back into itself. It is this pull from infinite Consciousness on the finite mind that is what the finite mind calls the desire for happiness.
But in order to experience the streets of New York, Mary has had to fall asleep to her own nature. Mary has fallen asleep in Titignano, and it’s only as a result of falling asleep that she is able to realise one of the infinite possibilities that exist within her. She could have dreamt that she was Claire on the streets of Tokyo. She could have dreamt that she was Annabelle on the streets of London. An infinite number of possibilities exist in Mary’s mind. She chose one of those possibilities: to be Jane on the streets of New York.
But to appear as Jane on the streets of New York, Mary had to fall asleep to the infinite nature of her own mind and rise in the form of Jane’s finite mind. It is only from the limited point of view of Jane’s finite mind that Mary was able to experience the streets of New York.
In the same way, to bring manifestation into apparent existence Consciousness needs to fall asleep to its own infinite nature, because it is not possible for something that is infinite to know something that is finite. There is no room in the infinite for the finite.
Manifestation means form, and form means limit, so in order to experience something limited, such as a universe, Consciousness must overlook the knowing of its own unlimited Being. It must fall asleep to itself and freely assume the form of the finite mind.
In other words, when Consciousness brings manifestation into existence, it comes at a price. Consciousness overlooks the knowing of its own Being, gives birth to the universe from within itself and then finds itself located as a self in that universe. In order to bring the universe into apparent existence, Consciousness has had to forget its innate nature of peace and freedom, and that is why ‘the self in the world’ longs for one thing alone: peace and freedom.
from his talk at Titignano, Italy 2015