This is a post written by my brother-in-law, Ed Kelly, a committed non-dualist, who wrote it in response to a question from a friend wondering about the book, “Proof of Heaven”. He was trying to help his friend understand the pitfalls that characterizes much of modern spiritual writing, a tendency to insert dualistic thinking into spiritual “experience”.
It is a long letter, dense with knowledge, experience, examples, and highlights of the often subtle belief in the materialistic paradigm that seems ubiquitous in the world. And because of all those elements, I think you will enjoy it and learn a lot from what Ed has to say. I is worth the time to read it and, perhaps, read it as second time as what he is sharing settles in.
By Ed Kelly
I’ve finished Proof of Heaven and wanted to share my thoughts about it. Sorry, this is a bit long, but I can’t seem to find a way to easily summarize this. First of all, I would say that the author’s experience clearly describes an essential reality that we all share. It appears to be an authentic, heart-felt account in many respects. However, I think he misunderstands the implications and true meaning of his experience, if meaning can be assigned to this at all. And that is at the core of the difficulty here with the author’s conclusions. He has taken a pure experience of our essential nature and superimposed a great burden of conventional ideas and beliefs upon it, a strange mix of materialistic science, religion and new-age spirituality. This is understandable given the assumptions that the author brings into his adventure. And even though those assumptions are stripped away to a great extent during his “heavenly” experience they are quickly reassembled upon re-entry into his earthly one. On “earth” the author views his experience through the lens of his old culturally conditioned sense of himself and the world, a separate inside self in a separate outside world.
This is the primary duality that forms the separate self and it’s world; this idea of ourselves, sometimes referred to as the ego, the body/mind, believed to be our core individuality, separate in time and space, in an outside, other, world. However, the separate self (and the world it perceives) is purely an imaginary thought and feeling-made self, a psychological and sensory self, which veils our essential nature and our true expression. The beliefs that make up the separate self, cloud not only our essential nature, but consequently all our actions and relationships. In fact, what we realize is that the separate self and the world it perceives arise together, they are two sides of the same coin. If we see ourselves as a separate, independently existing self, having a certain history, gender, nationality, religion (or scientific training), those ideas and beliefs are reflected in the way we see ‘the world’. In fact, once we are free of these ideas and beliefs based in the duality of self and other, we see that there is no independently existing world at all, it is just a construct of the mind. This is not about some new age concept of “making your own reality” but something far more intimate than that in our experience. There is not two in the first place, there is no separate self that can make its reality. The illusion of self and other arises in a bubble of the thinking and feeling-made self.
As Ramana Maharishi tells us: “The world is nothing more than an embodiment of the objects perceived by the five sense-organs. Since, through these five sense-organs, a single mind perceives the world, the world is nothing but the mind. Apart from the mind can there be a world?”
Even in the most fixed and stubborn materialistic mindset, the world is understood to be temporary at best, and because we know this, the separate self tries desperately to make the world in it’s own image, to ‘fix’ the world, to take on or assert certain ideas, philosophies, political and religious perspectives, and align themselves with others with those perspectives. The conflicts that arise in politics, religions, between races and nationalities, is just the on-going effort of the separate self to maintain the continuity and permanence of its most cherished beliefs. It has nothing to do with reality or good and evil for that matter. These also only exist in thought and are then played out in an equally imaginary, even if ‘collectively’ conceived world, believed to have inherent properties (good and evil) and a destiny of its own.
Even after all the author’s experience with these so-called ‘other realms’, even with such a powerful experience of his essential nature as the totality, the author remains stuck in an old materialistic model from which he forms his world view, and not just the world view of scientific materialism, but mixed up with religious mythologies that separates man from God, matter and spirit, earth and heaven, and the belief it is here “on earth”, a place, where we must complete some pre-ordained spiritual work, to do good and overcome evil, which will make us worthy to know God. And in this mix, is something called “free will” which somehow explains how we go wrong and then find redemption. When we look at this we really only find a rehash of very old and misleading ideas set in a “near death” experience.
And it is this belief that sets the stage for the journey, that we are a separate, limited, localized (in time and space) physical entity, and that this entity, the separate self must be transformed in some way through science, religion or spiritual experiences to be a better somebody, and better separate self.
The author writes: “I saw earth as a pale blue dot in the immense darkness of physical space. I could see that earth was a place where good and evil mixed and that this constituted one of it’s unique features. Even on earth there was more good than evil, but earth was a place where evil is allowed to gain influence in a way that would be entirely impossible at higher levels of existence. That evil could occasionally have the upper hand was known and allowed by the creator as a necessary consequence of giving the gift of free will to beings like us.”
And later, “We are free, but we are free beings hemmed all around by an environment conspiring for us to feel that we are not free. Free will is of central importance for our function in the earthly realm; a function that, we will all discover, serves the much higher role of allowing our ascendance in the timeless, alternative dimension… But it is also hugely important, for our role here is to grow toward the Divine, and the growth is closely watched by the beings in the world above.”
The book is full of this kind of dualistic theology. God up in heaven, the heavenly host tending to spiritual things, and angels watching over us here on earth, judging and guiding our progress toward the divine. And yet this seems to somehow coexist with the conventional model where an independently existing material universe is born of the Big Bang, formed solar systems and planets and eventually brought ‘life’ into existence, culminating in the evolutionary development of animals and human beings and the capability (brain power) for consciousness to emerge– the belief that consciousness is the outgrowth of a material process.
But, in fact, our actual experience is just the opposite, consciousness or awareness is the substance of the universe, it is prior to all manifestation and the essence of it. Nothing ‘material’ is ever created separate from the ‘spiritual’, ‘it’ is all consciousness through and through. When we understand this in our own experience (our actual experience right now) the terms spiritual and material no longer have any relevance or reality. This is not just more philosophy but our ever-present experience, and is revealed once we let go of the conventional dualistic models or ultimately any model. Models are useful in daily life, but they are not reality. It is our direct and most intimate experience that everything is just the knowing of it, pure knowing, knowing only itself, and this knowing is the life and substance of this luminous, transparent universe – ourselves, the presence of awareness. There is no inside or outside. We only experience our Self, awareness.
“When the doors of perception are cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.” – William Blake
At the end of the book, there is a statement which seems to indicate some evolution in the author’s thinking, but as he goes on we see it fall apart again into the conventional model of the universe and a limited separate self.
“This other, vastly grander universe isn’t “far away” at all. In fact, it is right here – right here where I am, typing this sentence, in fact it’s right there where you are, reading it. It’s not far away physically, but simply exists on another frequency. It is right here, right now, but we’re unaware of it because we are for the most part closed to those frequencies on which it manifests. We live in the dimensions of familiar space and time, hemmed in by the peculiar limitations of our sensory organs and by our perceptual scaling within the subatomic quantum up through the universe.”
And further: “Even as my consciousness became identical with all and eternity, I sensed I could not become one with the creative, the creative driver of all that is. At the heart of the most infinite oneness, there is still that duality. It is possible that such apparent duality is simply the result of trying to bring such awareness back into this realm.”
So, here, again, we have spiritual reality ‘hemmed in’ by duality, and by physical limitations. That God or Om is other, here but not here. The author is always trying to bridge the gap, but it is a gap of his own creation, or created by a culture that has always been grasping at a materialistic worldview. This is the “worm-eye” view, the underworld of myth and ignorance, and by ignorance here I mean the ignoring of our essential nature, our true being.
It is this belief or the ignoring of our true nature that hides or veils the Kingdom. “The Gateway” and “the Core” (the author’s terms) are within us, the ‘kingdom of heaven’ is within us. The “spiraling melody”, as he beautifully describes it, is the very fabric of one universe, one creation, one Being. How can this be separated into different worlds, dimensions? Our life is one consciousness, dimensionless and without limitation.
The author clearly experiences this if only briefly: “I would suggest that you couldn’t look at anything in that world at all, for the word itself implies a separation that did not exist there. Everything was distinct but everything was also a part of everything else like a rich and intermingled designs on a Persian carpet… or a butterfly’s wing.”
“Love is without a doubt the basis of everything… In its purest and most powerful form this love is not jealous or selfish, but unconditional. This is the reality of realities, the incomprehensibly glorious truth of truth that lives and breathes at the core of everything that exists or that ever will exist, and no remotely accurate understanding of who and what we are can be achieved by anyone who does not know it, and embody it in all their actions.”
Love is the dissolution of self and other, and this is our most fundamental experience at the source of all experiences.
And then in one of the author’s most promising of all his insights; “It is impossible to pursue the core reality of the universe without using consciousness. Far from being an unimportant by-product of physical processes (as I had thought before my experience), consciousness is not only very real, it’s actually more real than the rest of physical existence and more likely the basis of it all”
Or as Carl Jung once said, “Consciousness is the precondition of Being.” It is our very Being.
In fact, what this tells us, since consciousness is our ever-present experience, is that we do not need to take this journey. We are already what we are seeking, Now. Consciousness is not only “the basis of it all”, it is all. There is no place called earth or heaven, these are just names or conditioned states of the mind we overlay on our actual experience, veiling the truth of our being.
Right now it is our actual direct experience that we are present and aware, the presence of awareness, I am. This awareness is ever-present. It was never born nor does it die. It is the witness of all thinking, sensing and perceiving that comes and goes, while it remains. Thinking, sensing and perceiving is made of awareness but we are not made of thinking, sensing and perceiving. Everything is awareness just as the characters and images in a movie are only the screen. Once we see this, we need look no further for the kingdom. It is our Self – Being, Consciousness, Love – Sat, Chit, Ananda. Everything the author speaks of as heaven is already our own intimate experience right now.
There is nothing wrong with science, but we need a science of our actual, true experience. This will never happen, however, until the current scientific bias for a preexisting external separate independent reality called the material universe is seen as false. I value the authors attempt to bring science along, but he does so by asserting and supporting the models of this materialistic science. He wants so desperately to woo his scientific and medical colleagues into the truth of what he has seen that he believes he is forced to use their models. But models are not our experience, they are conceptual constructs about things that exist only within those constructs. When we believe we are a separate inside self in a separate outside world everything is seen through that construct.
We can talk further about all this at some point, if you like, but in the meantime, I have a book, actually two volumes to recommend for you, Presence, The Art of Peace and Happiness and Presence (vol. 1), and The Intimacy of All Experience (vol. 2) both by Rupert Spira.
Here is quote from Rupert: “At some stage we realize that the entire adventure of being bound, and the rediscovery of ourself, or being liberated, that entire adventure is not for awareness. Awareness never takes the adventure. It’s only for the separate self that seems to be bound, it’s only from the point of view of the imaginary self that there is the veiling or the absence of awareness and the return to it. When we finally realize, oh yes, I am this unlimited awareness, at that moment we realize, but I never went anywhere, I never truly took the journey away from myself. It was only when I thought and felt that I was a separate self that I was travelling in space and time, first of all away from myself and then the return journey back to myself, but when I came to back to myself, oh it was a dream I was here peacefully all the time, like we did when we wake up in the morning, I didn’t really fly all the way to China and back, I was just here. What was the self that took the journey and came back again, just an illusory self, it all took place in a bubble of thinking and feeling, all the while awareness was just at rest in the now.” – Rupert Spira