Our sense of being separate from God is perhaps a result of our natural dualistic mind, and its subject-object perceptions.
Every perception in adult human consciousness is automatically divided into a subject (observer) and object (observed), and this duality seems to separate the two, and may be the beginning of all duality or our sense of separation from Ultimate Reality.
We might say, “yeah, but the observed object really is ‘out there,’ while my subjective observer is in my bodily senses.” I suggest no, it’s not, that is just the way it seems to appear to our subjective minds. It is our mind that projects it “out there.” The perception itself is simply in consciousness.
If we think carefully about it (or not, as in contemplation), the perception itself is not so divided or separated into two parts. If we see a tree, the perception is of a tree, and this arising of the perception in the mind is simply a singular perception—the tree. It is just one perception (not perceptions). But our mind divides it into one who is seeing it, and the object(s) in the seen image itself. The singular perception becomes two, or dual.
Without this division into subject and object, or observer and observed, or prior to the cognitive division, the perception simply remains one, singular, just the perception itself. It is a singular activity within consciousness, a simple single perception arising in consciousness, made up of consciousness.
When we overlook the nature of consciousness itself (looking “beyond the mark,” or “missing the mark”?), and attach ourself and identity to the subject or objects after this division of mind, then we are looking beyond our deepest nature, our truest self, our deepest being. We ourselves become divided by our own mind, separated into a subject and its objects. The thought itself, as it arises in the mind, seems to divide us from nature and reality.
This is perhaps what Thomas Keating meant when he said:
The chief thing that separates us from God is the thought that we are separated from God.-Thomas Keating
The thought, divided into subject and object, is that separation. The perception in consciousness is no longer whole, no longer one with consciousness itself, but seemingly subdivided into parts, players, roles, objects, me and others. We become identified with our particular body-mind, and are alienated from the world around us. We think we are two separate things; we are this particular body, and everything else in the world is something else.
This is a kind of illusion of mind, but likely a necessary illusion. The mind must seem to separate perceptions into subject and object, the seer and the seen, in order to take a finite localized perspective on the world; in order to see some thing it must seem to be apart from the seer. Even our language reflects this dualistic separation into subject(s) and object(s), every sentence containing both parts, with a verb connecting their interaction.
But at a deeper level the separation is simply not there. It only seems to be there, to our mind, which overlooks that the perception itself is singular, and consciousness is perhaps neither singular or a duality, but just an infinite empty open awareness. There is nothing there to be “one,” or anything else.
But one might say, again, “but the tree really is separate from my body. It is over there, and I am over here.” Again, this is perhaps because our mind makes it look that way. It is our mind that is projecting an object we call a “tree” at a distance from our body, with spacetime in-between us, including all the attributes that we assign to the perception we call a “tree.” The mind is constructing all of this, in order to take a finite relative perspective on the world.
So is there not an objective tree that is truly separate from our body? No, I don’t think so. These are all relative subjective terms, the way our mind sees them, and not absolute objective ones. In the Absolute nature of the world, or Ultimate Reality/God, there are no relative relationships between separate things. It is a single continuum, a seamless whole, One Great Whole, the One, the Holy (Wholly) One, and everything is that One, or that emptiness (sunyata). It is our mind that divides it all, cuts it all up, categorizes, differentiates, classifies, alienates all things from each other, subdivides it, builds the walls and barriers and borders and edges and boundaries that seem to separate our sense of self from all other beings and things, and things from all other things.
But this veil of the mind can dissolve, it can fall away, it can be torn in two from top to bottom, it can be pierced, become transparent, disappear, die, be seen through, transcended, etc. I’m trying to pierce that veil in this very article, showing how it is illusory, a kind of mirage on the horizon, not really what we think it is, not fundamental, but rather a reflection of our subjective mind, a reaction within consciousness, an emergent phenomenon and not foundational or ultimately real. It is not the Real.
When this veil falls away, that’s when we know we are One, we know our true Self that is at-one or nondual with the totality of existence, in perfect union with God. I suggest this is not merely a figment of our imagination, or a hallucination of mind, or a fancy neurobiological phenomenon, but the way things really are underneath the veil of perceptions, beyond our rational mind.
Reality is fundamentally a Singularity, and we are that Singularity, the Whole, Reality itself, but our minds make it seem quite otherwise, reducing consciousness to a small, particular, finite, relative, temporal, mortal body-mind, and seeming to slice up the rest of reality into trillions of other bits and pieces. This “seeming” is what is called in the East maya, or illusion, or avidya, ignorance. In the West I think it is related to the Fall and sin, our seeming separation from the presence of God. It is error and delusion, only relative truth, not the true reality or Absolute. But I do think it is a necessary Fall for life and experience, for God’s own incarnate Self to experience life and being.
Albert Einstein, perhaps the most famous of all theoretical physicists in history, seemed to intuit this,
A human being is a spatially and temporally limited piece of the whole, what we call the “Universe.” One experiences themself and their feelings as separate from the rest, an optical illusion of their consciousness. The quest for liberation from this bondage is the only object of true religion. Not nurturing the illusion but only overcoming it gives us the attainable measure of inner peace.-Albert Einstein
We are liberated/saved/awakened from this illusory separation in consciousness through many means and modes of “transcendence,” or transcendent-mystical experiences, revealing Peace itself. The experience can be called the beatific vision, mystical experience, samadhi, realization, awakening, nirvana, moksha, nonduality, and many more terms throughout the world’s spiritual traditions. It is God’s Self waking up to its Self. The One is realizing itself again. The Singularity is being known by itself. The Whole is knowing itself by being itself again.
Or as Carl Sagan said, “we are a way for the cosmos to know itself,” but without that subjective “we” in mind, the cosmos simply knows itself as the totality of the cosmos itself. There is no longer a separate observer seeing the cosmos in a relative way from within the cosmos. The cosmos knows itself directly, without any mediation.
This is Christ Consciousness. It is a state of total unitive nondual consciousness, which knows itself as One, as the Whole, as the All. It is at-One in God. It is at-One-ment. It is theosis. It is deification, a revealing or unveiling of the God in us, the Divine in us, beneath the veil of our subjective perceptions. It is the Christ or Buddha in us, the Life in us, the Consciousness in us, the cosmos reflecting itself back into itself.
It is Love, because it sees all beings as not separate from each other, but One. It says what you do to the least of these, you do it to me. It says there are no “others.” It is all us, the I, the Self, the I AM, being manifest through a multiplicity and diversity of beings including the particular one that we usually call our body-mind, being incarnated in the flesh of all flesh. This is transcendence of ego, and an infinite expansion of identity to include All, realizing it all as your Self, your true Self, your Divine Self.
What do you think? How does our mind seem to generate duality? Or do you think duality is a fundamental quality of reality?
One thought on “How Our Mind May Construct our Sense of Separation from God”
Separation is the grand excuse of most religions; mystics realize it is just imagined. The mystical “truth” is that All is in One and One is in All here and now, in infinite and eternal Reality.