“Life is suffering” ... so declared the Buddha more than 2500 year ago. No truer than this is what we are witnessing in the world today. War, widespread depression and mental illness, mass refugee movements, poverty, injustice and a collapsing global environment stand as testimony to the suffering that humanity endures based on the separation and alienation brought about by wrong identification and inner dis-unity. In his latest book, Thoughts On Unity: wholeness and the end of suffering, Todd Lorentz takes us on a journey through the cause of our suffering – the original ‘fall’ from a state of unity with our Source – and provides a way forward that can restore our place in the Universe. Lorentz’s exploration helps us to understand how we have come to be so disconnected from our inner selves and the world around us, and how the revitalization of Unity can lead to the true revolution that humanity is looking for to take it forward into a new world based in cooperation, right relationship, love, justice and sharing. The way forward for humanity is through Unity; not a unity characterized by slick platitudes or hollow aphorisms but a Unity marked by a renewed inner connection to one another, to nature and to the Divine. This short excerpt is drawn from his chapter on “The Illusion of Separation.”
Having examined a few factors in relation to the personality, a picture has begun to form of what exactly constitutes the personal identity and how it functions as a virtual prison for the indwelling consciousness. Essentially, identity is created in the mind as a complex thoughtform and held relatively stable through repetition, conviction of beliefs, societal structures, familial influences, social norms and rules, and the refinement of expressive characteristics designed to provide a sense of individuality, belonging and ‘existence’ in the physical world that we perceive.
At times, family tradition will dominate an individual’s identity construct causing the adoption of their political, religious and/or social values as one’s own. In other instances, the individual identity may form as a rebellion against those same traditions. Where fear, suppression or violence influences early development the identity formation will either build protective or evasive mechanisms into its persona (even though those mechanisms may be detrimental in the long run) or, alternatively, adopt those negative traits as a template for dealing with others – regardless of whatever features, beliefs or qualities are built into the matrix of being a ‘separate self’. It is further underwritten and substantiated by the dualistic sensory experience of physical material existence. Thus, the identity becomes deeply conditioned toward sustaining and refining its material existence and often never even imagines to question the essential reality of that existence – even though, as we have just described, its identity (thoughtform) is nothing more than a temporary conglomeration of ideas, habits, beliefs and perspectives.
This deeply conditioned ‘idea’ of oneself exists merely as a set of brain waves, coordinated into a coherent set of impressions or notions about oneself, and hardly even registers as a measurable electrical charge on the physical plane. Yet, its all-encompassing embrace creates a virtual prison for the indwelling consciousness. This consciousness, through the process of ongoing and deep conditioning, believes so thoroughly in its own construct that it can’t even imagine itself to be anything but that identity. The road to liberation from this labyrinthine enclosure is long and complex – yet achievable. History has recorded many great disciples who have wrestled against this conditioning, transcended the personal separate identity, and who have charted a course for others to follow. This illusion which is the ‘separate self’, the ‘I’, exists for each of us only insofar as the consciousness remains convinced that it is so and thus sustains its form. And it is the existence of a separate illusory identity which results in the experience of disconnection from the world, from each other and from God.
Esoteric philosophy has expressed repeatedly that only one fundamental ‘sin’ exists for humanity – the ‘sin of separation’. This original primordial event – the separation of humanity from awareness of its own divine nature – marks a period in the distant past of humanity’s evolution where consciousness first became self-aware and, as a result, separate and distinct from its Source. This activity of mind to examine itself in order to know itself ‘set the pilgrim on its way’, only to return to its Source once the long path of evolution could make possible the achievement of full self-realization and liberation as a divine being. According to the Ageless Wisdom Teachings, consciousness begins from an unrealized state of unity with the divine Source. It goes forth under the Plan of God into an individuated state, identified with the separate material form that it creates as a vehicle of manifestation. While identified with its material form, consciousness experiences the suffering and pain of separation which acts as the stimulus to seek and to grow – to know who or what it is and why it is here. Life after life, incarnation after incarnation, the Soul (consciousness) advances incrementally in its awareness of the nature of life. Nearing the end of that long evolutionary journey consciousness comes to understand itself as the indwelling divine nature and gradually frees itself from the grip of material form life. This revelation eventually leads to liberation from that material form and, ultimately, a return to unity with the divine Source. It retains its individuated state as a fully self-realized divine Being, participating now consciously as an individual expression within in the Plan of God.
It is an interesting and revealing exercise to recognize the existence of a personal identity as the cause of separation and that this separation is the basis of our suffering. In fact, a careful and sincere examination will reveal that all negative emotions can be found to have roots in the belief that we are separate from one another. Fear, envy, greed, jealousy, anger, loneliness, remorse, selfishness and arrogance are only the beginning of a long list of characteristics which arise from the belief that we are separate from the world and from each other. If these perceptions of separateness were to cease entirely then so, too, would those negative characteristics cease to arise. In Buddhism, this idea is found in the notion of dependent co-arising (pratityasamutpada) and illustrates that our suffering arises out of our illusory views of the world. This idea also finds its demonstration in the lives of those advancing members of humanity who, nearing the gates of liberation, become largely freed of selfish actions and relate to their fellow beings mainly through the lens of compassion, inclusiveness, love and truth. As their awareness broadens to include more of the Whole they are increasingly influenced by the experience of the underlying unified reality. Their only course of expression, if they are to express the truth that they see, is to manifest that inclusiveness in every word and deed. Conversely war and strife will never end for humanity (and may even threaten to end humanity itself) until we can come to understand that we are fundamentally part of one divine existence – one world, united and inseparable. The only way forward for humanity, if it is to survive and flourish, is through unity and love. There is no other way.
Todd Lorentz is a philosopher, therapist and writer. A dedicated student of the Ageless Wisdom Teaching and Esoteric Philosophy, he balances a longstanding practice of meditation with the practical real-world application of his ideas. Lorentz works as a Massage Therapist in Edmonton, Canada, and is involved with various philanthropic organizations around the world, including his own charity, One Child’s Village, which provides support to HIV/AIDS orphans in Kenya. http://www.vedantapublishing.com
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