The edges of your humanity
Here is a black and white photo of a street in Krakow, Poland. What do you see? You see people going about their business and an elderly homeless woman sat on the pavement by a wall, right? You see the back of two women walking past her, right? It's a paved cobbled area, with a street going off to the right, in an old part of the city. However I see something completely different.
I see a lot of separateness and the sharp edges of humanity, and from what I can see are human beings going about their lives in normal, everyday Ego mode. Please keep in mind that I'm looking at this image from the perspective of a mystic, not just looking at the figures and images of physical reality. I'm also paying attention to the space between the people. We are conditioned to focus on physical forms and ignore the space between the physical forms. But the space between physical form is not nothing, it's consciousness, the basis of existence. Space is just a human concept. What you can see in space between two people or two objects tells you a lot about the connection or relationship between them and also, whether a relationship or connection exists.
Let me add another image so you understand what I'm getting at here.
Here's another image taken from a street. Only this time it's an image of street artist working on an image. You've got the same focus of conscious attention, or Ego mode, but here there's a soft edge of humanity on display here so the space here is actually the consciousness between the man and the pavement. You can see the connection for yourself because it's the space between the man and the pavement which indicates the relationship and connection between the two.
So what are the edges of humanity? What am I writing about here? It's probably best if we look at the relationship between consciousness and space then it should become much clearer for you. The easiest way I do this is through an image taken from Gestalt psychology.
The difference between consciousness and space
If you've read one of the introduction articles 'The necessity of space for mindfulness and well being' you will be familiar with this example as I wrote about it when writing about duality and non-duality. I will repeat the same principle and example here just to show you how frequently this fundamental principle crops up when it comes to developing consciousness, mindfulness and journeys involving a spiritual awakening.
Above we have a composite image I've pinched from gestalt psychology. From left to right you see three black and white images, but there's actually six images:
- On the left you see either a black Rubin vase or two white faces in profile facing each other.
- In the centre you see either a black tree and birds or a white gorilla facing a white lioness.
- On the right you see a black silhouette of a man playing a saxophone or a composite black and white image of a woman's face.
Now you can spend as much time as you like looking at these images, but in each of the composite images you will only be able to see one image, despite knowing that there are two images in one. The image you perceive from your individual perspective will be the image what exists, which you will perceive as consciousness and existence. The image you don't see you will perceive as space surrounding the image. So from your perspective, unaware, you will see consciousness and space as two completely different things. The way I personally explain the difference is that:
- consciousness is existence, because it's existence and information which can be perceived and known. Nothing can exist without giving out information about its existence, right?
- space is reality, because from your perspective space is non-existence, it's emptiness, void, nothingness and what defines existence and physical form.
This is duality. Your mind can only think in terms of dualities and polarities - e.g. light and dark, sound and silence, hard and soft, hot and cold, and so on. However...
- consciousness and space are one and the same thing - consciousness. Space is conceptual and is consciousness beyond the outer limits of your ability to perceive and conceive consciousness.
This is non-duality. You can only perceive consciousness and space together through extrasensory perception and spirit. This means that from your conscious perspective everything is connected through space, but through spirit you understand that everything is connected through consciousness. Consciousness is the fundamental basis of all existence.
So now we can move onto the two different edges of your humanity.
The sharp edge of your humanity
Think about the things that you are most afraid of. Think about the things you go out of your way to avoid. Think about the things which you have experienced in your life and which you are sure that you never want to experience ever again. Now think about things which other people have gone through, experiences which you would find unbearable or intolerable. Imagine for example being destitute and street homeless, being sent to prison for a crime you did not commit. Imagine receiving say an electricity bill for several thousand pounds and being told you have to pay it all off within a month.
At that point where things become for you unbearable or you think 'I could never do that' - this is the sharp edge of your humanity. There's two very important things to understand about the sharp edge of humanity.
The first thing is that your sharp edge of humanity is often somewhere outside your comfort zone and is defined by fear and anxiety. This is because your sharp edge of humanity is largely conceptual. While there may be past experiences you have gone through in life which brought trauma and suffering, and other experiences which common sense tells you that you should not go through, there are many other perceived experiences which are nothing more than the product of your imagination. Fear and anxiety is a fundamental part of life experience. You cannot go into the unknown or experience change without feeling on edge, or hesitant, or anxious, or afraid. But it's also true that hardly any of your fears about perceived experiences or outcomes have come real. In fact I'd put good money on no more than five of your fears and anxieties becoming reality in your whole life, and yes I'm being generous.
The second thing you need to understand is that it's your sharp edge of humanity which creates boundaries and divisions between you and other people. It's the basis of 'us' and 'them' thinking where you sort other people into broad brush societal categories and stereotypes based on their:
- physical appearance
- perceived behaviour
- perceived lifestyle
Here I wish to emphasize that some degree of discrimination and 'us' and 'them' thinking is natural and what we have inherited from biological evolution and other animals. Your dog discriminates between friend and perceived threat. Your cat also discriminates. You also discriminate. However there's a lot of discrimination which comes from social markers and social stigma and much of this comes down to social and cultural engineering and conditioning. Three examples - one, two, three, okay? The association of the black community with drugs and criminality. The association of LGBT people with sexual promiscuity and sexual deviancy. The association of people with disabilities with welfare dependency and benefit fraud.
This is where we come to the so-called 'freedom' of belief and personal self-expression. If you are following any sort of ideology or belief system you don't have any freedom but remain mentally and emotionally enslaved by your social conditioning. This comes right down to freedom of choice. Please keep in mind that the environment changes, not you. You are incapable of change and live on the basis of memory. Please understand that you cannot change either yourself, other people or society. The only real choice you have is whether to choose insight or to make more consciously aware choices, or to stick to belief and make more ignorant choices. This is about as far as your freedom extends to.
This means that freedom, actual freedom, comes from constantly pushing back on the sharp edges of your humanity and persistently challenging your own assumptions, preconceived notions and prejudices. There is no method in existence which allows you to develop consciousness, mindfulness or a spiritual awakening from a position of Ego and belief in external authority. Calling yourself a Christian or a Muslim doesn't cut it. That's just the label. You need to do the soul work and practice which comes with your chosen religion.