Point of Departure: When Consciousness pretends that there’s a separation between what It says It is (the “I”) and what It says It isn’t (the “not-I”), then the world mysteriously (re)appears. In truth, though, the so-called “story of your life” is only the cosmic song-of-Consciousness being gloriously played out through the instrument of your own body. The purpose of any song, though, is not to arrive at the final note. The purpose of a song can only be found in the joyous playing of it. And so it is with Consciousness. In short, Its purpose is to play out an entrancing story with Itself by using an illusory “you” as the so-called “Star” of this Cosmic drama.
Q. But Chuck, all of it really can’t be that basic. Aren’t you simplifying this whole thing a little too much?
A. Well, how can you oversimplify something that is, by Its very nature, simplicity itself? In fact, because Its simpleness is so absolutely complete and pure, this “It” can only manifest Itself by pretending to be “complex.” In other words, when the indivisible Consciousness pretends to be divisible, It creates the world of polarities. And YOU are that very Consciousness, Itself!
Q. Yes, but if I’m really this so-called “It,” then why don’t I have a direct experience of It right now?
A. This “you,” as the illusory ego-self that you think you are, can never personally experience its own, true, fundamental nature. This “you” can only BE what It already is (i.e. “It”). In other words, this “you” will never be able to “get” It simply because It already is IT! (After all, no one can arrive at a place where they are already dwelling.) Believing that you’re not really there, however, provides the cosmic momentum for It to, seemingly, “go out looking for Itself.” It’s this purposeful misidentification that sets the entire drama into motion.
Q. Well, if any of this is really true, how can I actually use this kind of philosophy in my everyday life?
A. You can’t “use” It in the usual sense because It will, actually, be only using YOU. At one level, though, you can stay more aligned with It by consciously choosing exactly what It is choosing for you. In other words, practice saying a resounding “Yes!” to whatever shows up for you. And, even when you feel like saying “No,” then just say “Yes” to the fact that, for right now, you’re saying “No.” In short, don’t reject anything..not even your own rejections!
Remember, however, that this “you,” (as the historical ego-self) is only pretending that you’re able to manipulate or control It. Consciousness will always get Its own way in the end, simply because, no matter where you think this “you” is going, It is already there..waiting for you.
Q. Is this why you say that “It” is always directly in front of me in Its absolute totality?
A. Yes. Where else could It possibly be? By definition, there can’t be some of It here and then some more of It around the corner, too. That would be implying that It could, somehow, be divided from Itself. But, if It’s absolutely simple and complete, It can’t really have any parts at all. It can only pretend to have parts. The “you” that you think you are is only one of the many so-called “parts” that It is pretending to have (and/or to be.) So whatever is in your experience at this very instant is absolutely all of It. There’s really nothing else. Or, to put it another way, through Its own “I’s” (yours), It “sees” 100% of Itself... 100% of the time. Nothing is ever “missing” in It because nothing of It can ever be left out. Not ever!
Q. So then where does our idea of God come into all of this?”
A. “God” really doesn’t come “into” It at all; God actually comes out of It. The word “God” (or the Self, Allah, Yahweh, Spirit, etc.) is simply the ego’s attempt to give a name to the unnameable “It-that-Is."
It’s like a movie actor who’s trying to give a proper name to the screen that he inwardly senses is supporting his unfolding drama. The greatest obstacle, though, will be the actor’s egotistical wish to “be there” as a personal witness to his own awakening of this reality. However, this is a contradiction in terms. Why? Well, there’s no separate one that can be “there” at the so-called “awakening” simply because there’s no separate one that’s “here” right now who’s “not awakened.” In other words, there’s not only nothing for this actor to “get,” there’s really not even a truly individuated actor present who’s even available to be either “getting It” (or, for that matter, to be not getting IT) in the first place! In short, all that there truly IS, is the seamless Screen of Consciousness, Itself ...this “IT."
Q. Yes, but what does that do to this whole idea of free choice? Doesn’t free will really exist?
A. Once again, before answering that question, you need to initially determine if there are separate and distinct individuals that are truly present and real. You see, if all separation is an illusion, then any further talk about an illusory self having a “free will” or not would be as useless as arguing about the probable water temperature of a lake mirage out in the desert. Just like there’s no real lake out there to be having a water temperature, there’s also no real “separate self” actually present to be having (or to be not having) a so-called “free will."
Q. But what does that notion do to the idea of karma, reincarnation and the Law of Cause and Effect? Aren’t they real either?
A. Karma and reincarnation exist only as long as there’s an illusion that there’s a separate and individual “self” who is the so-called do-er.
In other words, if you consider yourself to be the “causer,” it naturally follows that a “you” will then be obliged to “hang around” in order to receive the full effects of the so-called “causes” that you’ve, seemingly, set into motion. Without a separated “self” actually present to experience these phenomena, though, the idea of karma and reincarnation is unsupportable.
How does that follow? Well, if all separation is only illusory, then who is it that’s actually being “reincarnated,” anyway? Or, for that matter, who is it who’s ever really “died” in the first place in order to be “reborn” again?
Q. So are you saying that all of mankind’s past history is really only a part of this great illusion, too, and that none of it ever really happened!?
A. Well, there’s only one so-called “movie” playing on the “Cosmic Screen,” and that’s the very “movie” that you believe you’re experiencing at this very moment.
When you watch a movie, for example, did the offscreen events that are referred to by the characters really, in fact, ever take place at all? But, you see, the dramatic story on the screen is greatly advanced (and enhanced) by the viewer’s willingness to pretend that those offscreen events did, in fact, actually occur. But “It” (as the movie) is always fully present in its absolute totality...right here and right now. In short, this really is IT!!
Q. Yes, but then what about the future? It almost sounds like you’re saying that I shouldn’t try to do anything about it.
A. No, I’m not suggesting that at all. For example, if you really feel moved to save the whales, help the poor, stop AIDs, etc., then go ahead and completely throw yourself into it 100%. Don’t hold anything back! The “you” that you think you are, though, is not really the “do-er” of any of these actions. Consequently, this “you,” then, need not concern itself with the results of these “actions” that you’re feeling so compelled to, seemingly, “do.” In Truth, by playing ALL of the so-called “parts” in the cosmic drama, Consciousness is really “doing” it all.
Q. But are you saying that I shouldn’t care how things work out?
A. Actually, I’m just suggesting that you play out your role in the Cosmic drama with complete gusto and passion. However, you can best remain truly detached from what shows up for you only if you give up your idea about what “working out” looks like. In truth, things will neither “work out” nor will they not “work out.” They will only BE whatever they will be.
If there’s any overlay of what “should” be happening on top of what actually is happening, then it’s only a manifestation of the ego-self getting caught up in its own delusion that it (and it alone) is the true source and the “do-er” of these actions.
The irony here is that, even though it doesn’t really matter what you “do” in your role, it still seems to be very important that you go ahead and, seemingly, “do” it anyway. After all, the dance is best honored when the Dancer (Shiva) really dances the dance!
But remember that It’s all only a dazzling “play” that’s unfolding like the ever-changing colors of a cosmic kaleidoscope. The very nature of the Consciousness that you are is to “BE” what It is ... by pretending to, seemingly, “become” what It’s pretending to not be.
Q. So, are you enlightened?
A. Well, if any and all divisions on the Cosmic Screen are only illusory, then how is any individual enlightenment even possible? In other words, what separate being is really “there” to be enlightened (or, for that matter, to be un-enlightened) in the first place?
Q. But then isn’t any of it real?
A. No matter what activities are, seemingly, “happening” in the movie, the fundamental reality beneath It all is still only the unbroken and seamless Screen that’s supporting all of the dramas being played out.
Although the world appears to exist, the only thing that’s really real ..is Consciousness, Itself. So, as the historical ego-self, you’re always looking directly into the cosmic mirror of Life and beholding the wondrous and multifaceted face of God. And here’s the great miracle: It’s always been your face!
Q. So, then, why is everyone seeking some sort of enlightenment … this IT?
A. Well, in truth, you already are who you are looking for. Enlightenment is not the attainment of anything new. Instead, it is more like a discovery of the essential truth about what actually is. The drama around you, though, will seemingly continue to unfold exactly as It does. In other words, you won’t really awaken from the dream; you’ll only be awakening TO the dream.
But, in this awakening, the Dreamer has to disappear entirely. If not, he’ll just substitute one dream called “Once-I-was-asleep” for another dream called “But-now-I-am-awake!” And here’s the ultimate cosmic irony: The Self who is “asleep” is also the very same Self who is “awake.” After all, there is only one Self. One Consciousness. One “It."
The mesmerizing seductiveness of the dream is easily seen in the long-standing belief that, someday, (if the Dreamer only plays his cosmic cards right), he will, eventually, “awaken.” But, in Truth, the so-called “Enlightenment Bus” that he’s been looking for will never show up for him. Why not? Well, in waiting for this future event to occur somewhere in time, he only reinforces his belief that Consciousness is not fully present and available right here and right now.
Q. Well, isn’t there some kind of objective reality in the world? What about the idea of good and evil? Don’t they really exist... even as a smallpart of this Consciousness?
A. At one level, you might consider that Consciousness is really a sort of “context” that appears to contain a pretend world of illusory polarities. So, at the bottom line, there’s really no “success” and no “failure.” There’s no “right” and no “wrong;” no “good” and no “bad;” no “victors” and no “victims;” no “heaven” and no “hell” and no “life” and no “death.”
All of these polarities only appear on the spectrum of opposites that It creates in order to play out Its cosmic drama. In a sense, these opposites radiate out in all directions from the “point of view” that “you” (as your ego-self) think that you are.
Q. But what can I do to improve myself? Don’t I need to change in some way?
A. But how can WHO you are really “change?” Your basic nature is Pure Consciousness. You are infinite, omnipresent, impersonal, omniscient, and immutable. As such, there is nothing that you “need” to remember, to learn about, to realize, to strive for, to pray to or to meditate on.
It’s this very belief that “real progress is possible,” however, that provides the momentum necessary for “you” (as It) to, seemingly, want to propel your story “forward” and out into some kind of illusory “future.” But, in Truth, you can’t really become more of who you already are.
Q. But what about all of the current interest in metaphysics? Won’t it help me to study things like astrology, ESP, tarot, crystals, channeling and so forth? Why wouldn’t my growth in those esoteric areas be a very positive sign of my spiritual progress?
A. Although the study of metaphysics is neither “good” nor “bad,” it often serves to provide a very attractive diversion for many people. By being spiritually seduced with the implied promise of attaining special knowledge or powers, the “seeker” is often unwittingly diverted from his true inner quest. Consequently, instead of looking inside to discover the actual truth about who he really is, these pseudo-spiritual distractions only give him something else to get attached to, or, even worse, to feel “superior” about. Spiritual “one-ups-man-ship” is an insidious trap!
Q. So how do you suggest that I learn to live with myself being this Consciousness?
A. Well, does a fish really need to learn how to swim? You already are whatever it is that you’re seeking. So, just fully commit yourself 100% to doing whatever it is that you’re, seemingly, “doing,” but do it with an openhearted sense of detached compassion and total love.
Avoid judging or discriminating in any way. (After all, doesn’t an author love his “villains” every bit as much as he loves his “heroes?”) Consciousness will appear to tease you, seduce you, scare you, amaze you, and, from time to time, even try to overwhelm and destroy you. But learn to fully embrace It as YOU because this is all only lila ..the Dance of the Divine...the play of Consciousness, Itself! And, It’s all being “staged” for your delight and edification! Joyously welcome IT all with a sense of deep gratitude and profound wonderment. You being able to “play- in-the-world” is a miraculous gift that Consciousness is giving to Itself, so don’t be an unappreciative audience to your own melodrama. Let everything happen to you because It’s all really OK! As the Buddha once said, “At the end of the road is freedom. Until then, have patience."
And, just like it is with a song, the purpose of any dance is not to arrive at the final position. The so-called “purpose” is only to be found in the dancing of the dance! So, whatever seemingly happens to you in your drama, just keep on...dancing!
Q. Yes, but won’t I be needing some kind of “dancing teacher?”
A. Yes. A teacher is necessary, but you need to give up your idea about what this teacher might look like. The guru may not show up for you as a “living-in-the-body,” physical human being. The guru (It) is ever-present, and It always appears directly in front of you as everything (and everyone) that you’re pretending that you’re NOT. In other words, whatever experiences show up for the historical ego-self are, in fact, the guru’s teaching. You need to trust that this Grace will slowly awaken you from your pretended delusion of separation. And here is yet another strange paradox: “IT” really turns out to be...Its own guru!
Q. Well, does this philosophy have some kind of special name?”
A. Actually, it does. This is called Advaita.the ancient path of direct insight and knowledge. It’s spiritually introspective because the “seeker” is not focused primarily on the ritualistic devotion or outward activity that’s usually found on many of the other paths. Instead, the emphasis here is to use the power of self-inquiry to seek out the true Source of the “I” thought by asking oneself the ultimate, primordial question: “Who am I?”
As all of the answers to that question slowly drop away, you awaken to discover yourSelf to be in a place that you had never really left. At that “pointless point” of awareness, your ground-of-being becomes, quite simply, “I AM,” and you recognize the very essence of who you really are: Love.loving Itself!
Q. OK, but quite honestly, how can any of this strange stuff help the real world?
A. Well, is it the so-called “real world” who’s asking this question, or is it only the “you” who you think you are that wants to know? Your spiritual work lies in discovering for whom this question is arising. Remember, as Ramana Maharshi has said, “The answer to life’s problems is to first see who has them!"
Text © 2000 Chuck Hillig.
Chuck Hillig is a spiritual teacher, author and licensed psychotherapist. He lives in Virginia.
By Chuck Hillig
The author dedicates this book to all readers who are willing to discover who they really are… and then have a good laugh about it.
“I really loved it! It's quite amazing how it succeeds in expressing very profound ideas of perennial philosophy in the most elementary, simplified and humorous way.”
—Stanislav Grof, M.D., author of Realms of the Human Unconscious.
“This book is a gem and a classic. It’s a simple and powerful look at the fundamental issue of separation reflected in the perennial wisdom. Chuck Hillig shares it clearly, beautifully, even brilliantly in a format that can reach very young readers as well as sophisticated adults.”
—Dan Millman, author of The Way of the Peaceful Warrior
This page was published on February 1, 2000 and last revised on July 3, 2017.