The Inverse Proportional Paradox of Seeing Outwardly and Inwardly

It seems the more we see outwardly, the less we see inwardly? Some thoughts on the nature of the veil.

Here’s a potential paradox: the more we “see” with our senses and intellect, the less we may discern of our spirit/consciousness. These seem inversely proportional to each other.

I think Jesus expressed this paradox in John 9:

Jesus said, ‘For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.’ Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, ‘What? Are we blind too?’ Jesus said, ‘If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.’

-John 9:39-41

Why is this?

I suggest it is perhaps because the perceptions that arise in consciousness, which I call “mind,” is also a veil which seems to hide consciousness itself. Consciousness veils itself with its own activity.

Rupert Spira uses the analogy of a TV screen. The screen seems to disappear when a TV show or movie is shown on that screen. The show we see is nothing but the activity of the screen itself, but we fail to recognize the screen for the activity on it.

So it is with our consciousness. Pure consciousness itself seems to disappear, or is veiled, obscured, by the modulation or activity within consciousness (mental objects of either perception or thought). And yet, what we experience in our mind is nothing but consciousness taking finite forms, or “incarnating,” but we fail to recognize consciousness because we are distracted by the forms in which it is taking shape.

This is perhaps related to the classic idiom of not “seeing the forest for the trees”; we are overwhelmed by detail to the point where it obscures the overall situation. The detail in consciousness veils the holistic and basic nature of consciousness. It could also be related to the paradoxical insight that “the more we learn, the less we know.” The more our mind is filled with thought-forms, the more it is constricted by those very same forms so that it can see little else, most especially what the mind itself is.

This is perhaps why many contemplative practices seem to be designed to settle the mind’s activity, allowing it to become still and void, and also often include sensory deprivation, so as to be able to discern the nature of consciousness itself in its naked nature, devoid of thought. Such practices unveil consciousness in its true nature.

Once we contemplate the nature of consciousness in its pure nature, we gain a far greater and deeper understanding and appreciation for the infinite variety of forms in which it forms life and experience.

In the West we might call this process kenosis, or self-emptying (from the Greek kenoó in Philippians 2:7). In the East they may call it sunyata, or emptiness.


Photo by v2osk on Unsplash.


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