Light and Shadows
“‘Know yourself’, it has been said, ‘and you will know God’. This would imply that there is, within us, the infinity of all things. Yet, what most of us experience is the opposite of all the glorious and blissful attributes of the Almighty.”
What is the nature of the power which drives the individual in this world?¶
We experience life always through change, movement, temperature and so on. We experience light through its shadow. Pure light cannot be perceived, except through rainbows. We experience the ever-present, eternal light of the Divine through the attributes which emanate from it. Everything that we experience which is subject to time and space is moving from one end to another; from one opposite to another. Good to bad; up to down; wakefulness to sleep - oscillating constantly. Everything we experience is images on the screen of non-change. What drives us is the love of that Absolute non-change.
The fuel of any movement or desire is love, though these desires may occur at a multitude of different levels within the hierarchy of life. The love for good health; for a clear mind; for beauty; for perfection of whatever we witness in the Garden; for bringing together a harmony in which - if I do the right thing at the right time in the right way - the right result comes. We are fueled or motivated by an infinite hierarchy of love and passion, ending with love for Love, by Love, unto Love.
In that state, everything you see is a manifestation of the original Essence, although it may - in appearance - seem far removed from it. For instance, a lump of steel is light, modified and hardened. This is because there is light within each atom, which is itself nothing other than bits of light whizzing around other bits of light. However, it has been structured, restructured and modified so that it appears hard and solid.
Solidity is a facet of light, and we are essentially made of that Light of lights, before its fragmentation into the colours of the rainbow. We contain within us that essence which is a reflection of the Divine Essence. We are both divine and subjected to constant change, struggle and desires. It’s together! You cannot deny the fact that you will always have needs. Nor can you deny the truth that you are always seeking to be without needs, at the same time.
This is the paradox: here we are caught in time and space, searching, seeking, desiring and worshipping at the altar of that which is beyond time and space, and is the source and cause of time and space. Together! Every one of us contains a soul, which has within it a pattern which is cosmic, and yet is simultaneously subject to the physicality and changes of this world.
What distracts us from this?¶
Other shadows. Impinging shadows. Constantly changing shadows and demands, from the physical to the mental to the spiritual to the environmental and our relationships. It’s a constant interplay of attraction and repulsion to bring us back into equilibrium. If we are unaware of this, we end up in chaos, not knowing the wood from the trees, or what our priority really is. If we realise that - at all times - we are seeking access to the zone of equanimity and constancy within us, then all of these distractions actually become an enhancement for arrival.
Could you explain why we have this apparent schizophrenia?¶
You see, light will only be shown, and its qualities known, by the shadow it casts. As we know, light behaves like both a particle and a wave. The photon is a specific entity with a set duration and, therefore, a “death”. The wave continues forever. The same pattern applies to individuals: an aspect of us dies and an aspect of us carries on. It is the frequency. If the frequency of the so-called I is synchronised with the eternal in me, then I am saved from my lower self and all the shadows which occur outside and inside.
Therefore, the entire business of maturity moves you from the physical and material to the subtler until you realise that what you were seeking has been seeking you. Really, God has been seeking you! He wants to be known and shown and adored, so you are adoring all these qualities. The conflict you refer to revolves around the fact that an aspect of you seems to be dying and yet, you want to prolong anything that is desirable. Here, a part of you is dying and a part of you wants to live forever. A part of you is caught by the shadow and a part of you wants to be free. There is this dichotomy and, unless you resolve it, personal conflict becomes societal conflict.
In truth, you are the centre of your universe. If you have not, in every way, defined it, known it, seen it, and mapped it you will see others as threats and that is the basis of conflict and war. There is an inherent inner conflict around that fact that you want to attain power and yet you know that you will never attain sufficient power. You want constant ease and yet you know you will never attain it, because your body constantly has different demands. There is an inherent apparent conflict within us which is then projected on a societal level.
Until it is seen that this conflict is only a shadow indicating the light, we cannot resolve it. If you see that the shadow is only a result of the light, then there is no conflict.
Will we really see that shadows are caused by light? Aren’t people just always fixed and focussed on the shadow?¶
Yes, it often happens. It’s not your birthright to be able to transcend the shadow, or transcend your mind. It’s something you have to work at. The same way we work at outer skills - whether it is a language or a profession or whatever - we also have to work at the skill of discerning the mind from the intellect, from the light behind them both. So, it is true that most people get caught in this, and that’s just what it is.
Now, the truth is that any intelligent person who reflects, meditates, and looks at the meaning behind all this will reach a point where they discover that we are all seekers of the same thing. We are seekers of inner ease, contentment, understanding, knowledge and self-reliance, rather than the lower self becoming an obstacle.
Shadows are relative. Everything in this life is relative: my experiences, my needs, my desires, my relationships all change. What I wanted when I was six is very different from what I wanted when I was fifty. What you want in the morning is not the same as what you desire in the afternoon. The shadows are constant changes that are reflected by, and known because of, a screen within me which never changes.
I know that the present pain may pass quickly, or that this relationship may take longer for me to adjust or get out of or suffer from. You already know, within yourself, a certain hierarchy or time sequence, by relating to that zone of constancy which is the closest to the Light in you. You have Pure Light or Consciousness in you, manifesting as multifaceted consciousness: consciousness of your body, of your mind, of your heart, of your health, of the others, of the environment and so on. But then there is this Pure Consciousness. The more you are tuned to that, the less you are disturbed or distracted by outer changes.
That is why, the more there is outer change, the more you need to enhance your inner access to the non-change. It is the way of nature: it is warning you that there is excess in the outer which needs to be balanced by access to the inner.
But we get carried away, which is the meaning of dis-ease: disease, you are sick if not synchronised with the totality. You do not deny the outer change, but if you get caught by it completely you are denying yourself that inner non-change. This is what causes us to be labelled as too materialistic or worldly.
There is nothing wrong with the world! What is wrong is my relationship to it. There is nothing wrong with things, it is my obsession with things that makes me suffer.
Could you give us an example of light and shadow, and how it works?¶
Light manifests in a multitude of desirable qualities. Let’s take knowledge. Knowledge emanates from the essential Light of lights, which is the divine essence. The shadow of knowledge is ignorance and we are all programmed not to want ignorance. Ignorance is the nature of the lower, but I am driven by my desire to know - I want to know! - therefore that shadow becomes a key to the courtyard of light, which manifests in this particular case as knowledge. The same idea applies to hearing: it is a virtue to be able to hear and a vice to be deaf. Therefore I get a hearing aid to turn from the shadow of that vice to the light which has caused it.
So, all vices are shadows of virtues. I suffer from vices so that I turn to the virtue that has, if you like, produced the vice as a by-product, and has programmed me to make that turn. It is already done! The work is done in that one of the divine attributes in the Ever-Generous, the Ever-Merciful. Now, the basic lower nature of the self is meanness, but I am also programmed wanting to have generosity. My awareness of my meanness (or the meanness of others) becomes the means by which I see it as a vice to turn away from. The suffering from that vice can be a big incentive and drive towards the virtue of generosity.
All of these higher attributes are within the heart. If I only adore them more, I will automatically turn away from their shadows, which are the opposite and negative emotions.
Somebody could be generous, but harbour ill intentions. Does that mean that generosity itself can become a shadow?¶
There is no such thing as a constant person or character: it’s about what you do. You may act generously, but it is a small, little reflection of the ever-present, boundless generosity that is emanating from the Essence, from God. So, you have simply synchronised yourself with a little bit of a tiny little reflection of that. Which is why we say, “He is an illumined person” or, “He is full of light.” All it means is that that person is acting in a manner which reflects occasions of the attributes, which are the Ever-Generous, the Magnanimous, the Forgiving, the Loving and so on.
There is no such thing as a generous person, but if you exercise generosity all the time, then you will - in a way - be given that label because you have been constantly acting in a way which is considered generous. Which really just means giving that which does not belong to you anyway.
What did you have when you were born? What do you have when you leave this world? In between, we are trying our best to enact and reflect the perfection which is within us. We are totally, in every way and at all times, worshipping at that altar, because we love total generosity, unconditional love, boundless knowledge, and all the other attributes which we all know are beckoning us.
The way we go to them is by turning away from their opposites, which are the shadows.
Could you give us some examples of what shadows mean?¶
Greed is of the lower self, love of the lower self, and we start with that. If you are not greedy, you will not find its opposite, which is unconditional generosity. There needs to be progress, and for that we need guides, help, and reflections so that we can groom the character. The nature of the lower self is to be greedy and mean, calling everything to itself and dispelling everything it doesn’t desire, which changes all the time.
What is the meaning of suffering?¶
Suffering is nothing other than going for a zone or an activity that does not last, nor does it give me contentment. Suffering is a misplaced orientation. A journey - if you like - into the wrong cul-de-sac, which comes to nothing. I am programmed not wanting to suffer, so I have to take to the original pattern which is already within me. Suffering in this sense is the prelude to the Divine Offering, a call from the higher in me to abandon and turn away from the lower within me.
We all can be mean, we all can be deaf or turn a blind eye, but - equally - if you are given to constant reference to the higher in you, you don’t want to be mean. Because you want others to be generous to you and you know the outer world is, in truth, a reflection of your inner world. The more you are generous - truly, unconditionally - the more you will find that the world is generous to you.
In fact, we bring about - through mirroring - the outer situation to show us our own inner situation. There is perfect Mercy and balance in life. You reap what you sow…
Hope will continue forever! Hope implies arrival at the point in which you already are, without knowing it. Ultimately, hope implies knowledge of the ultimate within you that has driven you, in every way and at all times. But you and I have not responded sufficiently, because of our distractions and because of our illusion of freedom, which misleads me to believe that I can do what I want or am empowered in any way I care to imagine.
All of these aspects of our experience are reflections of the higher. So, my hope increases as I refer more and more to the higher in me. Eventually, I go beyond hope. Hope comes fairly early on in the ladder of self-discovery and self-enlightenment, because it is an aspiration, or it was faith. Eventually, that faith becomes knowledge, that I know I am - totally, in every way - guided by the One and only Light within me, not misguided by the many shadows.
Then you are consistent. We are all seeking consistency and reliability. The reason is that there is an inner core constantly beaming and bombarding us with that pattern or frequency. We want to be tuned to a zone that is ever there, which is why we also love trust, though most of us end up completely distorted and confused because of mistrust. I trust in him or her, but these are only tiny reflections of trust in the eternal zone of trust, which is why it is so important for parents to allow children to trust them: you can’t change constantly.
Trust is part of Lordship (rububiyya) and tarbiyah: to bring them up. To realise that there is a zone that is forever trustworthy, which is the divine zone in you, or your soul. All our hopes, faith, and trust lead us to the ultimate precinct, which is within us. The closer you get to it, the more you will find its light and reality and effulgence. The further you are away from it, the more you are caught in its outer manifestations, which can be hard and physical and material.
What is the impact of our environment - our upbringing, conditioning and traumas - on our ability to turn towards the light?¶
I don’t think anyone is immune to how they were nurtured, no matter who. An ordinary person, a mediocre bourgeois person, or a prophet: no-one is immune to shadows. Shadows, indeed, are the manifestation of the original Light; they are how it expresses Mercy. What matters most is that passion and desire for the original Light and the ultimate Absoluteness behind all the relativity. If that passion drives you, then the shadows will not affect you. In fact, they begin to enhance the light.
It depends on your inner situation, which changes according to many factors. Of course we are subject to genetic imprints and of course we are subject to those early months in the womb and our first experiences of this world. Everyone is subject to their environment. We are both nature and nurture. But, if you truly have that passion for the eternal, then the eternal - which is always eternal and always there, manifesting as well in the changing - will reveal itself. Then you know the eternal and you do not deny the changes. You do not deny the pain; you do not deny the anguish, but they will not leave a big imprint on you.
It sounds like we should pity those who don’t suffer?¶
Truly, absolutely. That’s why people in a coma don’t suffer [laughs]. Or people who have completely gone mad: they don’t have any foundation in rationality, or reasoning or balance. We have to start with that: we have to be reasonable and give evidence, until such time that you realise that all these changes had higher meaning behind them, and within that meaning was the same light and that is what unifies the cosmos.
Which is why, as I said earlier, conflict comes by two and unity is the foundation of the so-called conflict. So, we can connect with - we can have sympathy, empathy and love - by going to the original love, by going to the One behind the two. Otherwise, everything is confusing, because each has its own fingerprint, which is distracting.
This outer identity actually hides the same, inner entity. That is why we say, “Wherever you turn, there is the face of God.” Wherever you turn is that Essence.
What is the cause of guilt, sorrow, and contentment?¶
Again, the great natural design. We are given this apparent freedom to act: I can now act in a manner which is conducive, or one which is destructive. Guilt is the difference between what I have done and what I could have done had I been fully present and taking reference from the constant inner zone. If I had referred to the higher in me, I would have acted differently. So, guilt is only a measure of the difference between what I did in a hurry or absent-mindedly, with what I could have done with not only presence of mind, but also presence of heart.
This is because we love to be constantly doing appropriately within that moment’s totality. We want to act correctly, all the time. And it changes all the time! “Correctly” meaning in a manner that you could not have done better had you had more time and opportunity to reflect upon your action. So, you are living the moment fully.
*If you are living the moment fully, you have lived eternally. *
How can we groom the self and be free from the ego?¶
You can never be free of the ego totally: the ego is an indicator of the light that has cast it. We must not renounce the ego, we must sublimate our lower tendencies and bypass them by virtue of the plan and program we are given within us which makes us suffer from such tendencies and therefore turn to the opposite, where the perfection lies.
You are never free of the shadows. You won’t exist in this body anymore. But it becomes so unimportant. It becomes like the paintings of those pointillists: just a tiny little dot with no big impact.
You cannot free yourself from the shadow, nor can you free yourself from the Original Light in you. But that Original Light is the freeing agent, because it is free in itself. Your real nature - your higher nature - is eternally free. Your other nature, worldly nature, human nature, identifiable nature - your fingerprint - is caught in specificity. It is definable. The definable actually alludes to the non-definable. The limited betrays, shows, points to the non-limited. Then it becomes far easier for you to groom the self.
I have to move though, which requires mobility at different levels: intentional mobility, mental mobility, physical mobility and, of course, spiritual mobility. In the end, I have to admit that I came into this world with no claim, then I can also leave with no claim. All that is happening in the meantime is for me to discover the ultimate gift of the eternal Light, the eternal Life and Its perfections which are here with me! I have to yield to that in order to attain the fruit of this existence, otherwise I will be chasing these shadows all the time.
We all seek limitless wealth, because there is the limitless zone of the Ever-Wealthy in you and you can never attain that. Knowing this, you become satisfied with limitation. You say, “Of course! This is enough for me.” Then modesty sets in. Otherwise, the lower self mimics the higher self and wants boundless bounty, which cannot be because this world is based on limitations. Therefore, the conflict. An aspect of me wants everything, and another aspect has within it the knowledge of everything. So, if I tune to the higher in me, then the outer will not make such a big impact upon me, like those people who jumped out the 90th story window because they lost a fraction of their wealth when share prices plummeted.
That is a madness which arises from looking for wealth in the zone where wealth is limited. Knowledge is limited here. Yet, we do not denounce the shadows; we denounce the forgetfulness that the light is constantly there, producing these changing shadows. So, I just need to change my perspective, from one which tries to make sense out of the shadows to one which lets the eternal Light show how all these shadows are - at the end of the day - not self-empowered. They are all dependent on that ever-present Divine energy, which is the source of all love, of itself, by itself.
So the trick is take the limits and limit them even further?¶
Precisely. Accept the limitations, then you will be accepted by the limitless which is in you. Recognise the zone of the limited domain, and the domain of the limitless has already claimed you.
Potentially, we are all limitless. Potentially, we are all in the divine precinct. But we experience life - to begin with - in a very strange, constantly shifting, changing, limited world. So, the limited world is created by the limitless Creator, Who is within it at all levels: essence, meanings, attributes and forms.
Transcendence implies accepting all of this, while allowing yourself access to another zone in you that is beyond the limitations of the mind. You do not become another entity; you are the same. All that happens is that your focus has changed and shifted a bit more towards the potential in you. So you have realised the potential in you. Therefore, it is self-realised!
It’s not a big thing, it is the most natural thing to do. It‘s not a strange, mystical phenomena; it is the most natural thing to attain for everyone, because it has attained us! So we have to yield to it.