“What am I? Am I the bulb that carries the light, or am I the light of which the bulb is a vehicle?”
Comedy can be one of the quickest ways to open people up to truth. The spiritual teachers I’ve connected with most have all had a great sense of humor to complement their deep wisdom (Alan Watts being the foremost example). Those who have seen deeply into the nature of life often return with a smile on their face because hey, after all, the universe/God certainly must has a sense of humor (just look at the duck billed platypus….or the fact that half the human race has an appendage hanging between their legs that often causes the most intelligent among them to prioritize a fleeting moment of pleasure above all else and make disastrous decisions- hilarious!).
One great teacher (who disguised himself as a comedian) was Bill Hicks. Precious nuggets of Truth often hid themselves in the vulgarity and crudeness of his routines. In one sketch, Hicks wonders why we only hear about the negative outcomes of drug use:
Did you catch that line 2 minutes in?
One consciousness, experiencing itself subjectively.
I’ve been pondering the (admittedly profound) implications of that line for some time. What does it mean to say that there is only one consciousness?
It’s only with the help of seeing a ubiquitous feature of our modern world- electricity -as a metaphor that I’ve begun to sense a tiny portion of the grandeur of this statement.
Electricity is really a marvel, because the same energy can be used in so many different ways. But if we had never come across electricity before, it might be difficult to understand how the same force could be responsible for charging cellphones, running computers, and toasting our bread.
Similarly, it’s not immediately obvious that human beings, bacteria, and jellyfish (not to mention all the other forms of life possibly out there in the universe) might all be “plugged into” the same grid of consciousness. This one consciousness (which goes by many names- see below) manifests itself into a variety of forms whose diversity conceals their underlying source.
This view is directly counter to the prevailing scientific-materialist dogma that the brain creates consciousness. To paraphrase a quote I read on facebook (which we’ll examine as a metaphor next week….jk!), looking for consciousness inside the brain is like looking for the announcer inside the radio.
If you identify yourself as merely a bulb, then you’ll freak out when the bulb burns out (as it inevitably will).
But if you identify yourself as a vessel through which a greater energy flows, then you understand that even if one light burns out, the current is still there. Bulbs come and bulbs go; the power in the wall remains.
In our culture, the word we use to try and grasp this “current” is God. But in just the same way it doesn’t matter whether we call the force coming out of our walls electricite, strom, or elektrycznosc, it doesn’t matter whether we call that energy/force/power underlying existence Allah, Krishna, or Jehovah (choose your metaphor!).
Just as an electrical current does not depend on a light to exist (it’s still present in the socket even if nothing’s plugged in), God would not be diminished in any way if we did not exist.
But without a lightbulb, that energy flowing through the wall would not be visible (NB: to describe electricity as “flowing” is actually a metaphor. We use that term because we can see and understand how water flows, and apply that image to electricity).
To actualize its tremendous power, electricity needs vessels. Without containers that reduce and limit its overwhelming force, electricity’s potential would remain invisible.
Thinking of everything in the universe- from atoms all the way up to us- as vessels through which God-energy manifests pushes the conceptual mind to its limit…which is kind of the point of this little exercise. All spiritual traditions and practices show us that to know God, we must go out of our minds.
If we could see the full picture of what the word God points to, we’d be fried, so we’d better be grateful for being limited the way we are.
My head is buzzing right now… I’d better disconnect before a few circuits blow 🙂