If we imagine a multi-layered sphere, like an onion, we could say that the ultimate truth lies at the very center. All of the layers surrounding that center represent experience, emotions, thoughts, concepts, stories, and even metaphors. Some of these concepts are closer to the center, while others are further away – but none of them can ever actually reach the center.
In the outer layers, reality is perceived as fragmented, made up of separate, isolated pieces. The mind divides reality into this and that – a very helpful tool for communicating and coordinating efforts. But somewhere along the way, we lost our connection with the center. We fell asleep. We began to believe in our thoughts and perceptions as reality, forgetting that they are only shadows of the ultimate truth. This is what the Bible story of eating from the tree of knowledge was pointing to. That was the moment when we first began to mistake concepts for reality.
If we ever hope to return to the garden, we’ll need to leave all knowledge behind to do so. All ideas, including the idea of “I” need to be let go of in order to return there. At the very center, there is no division. There is only one. And we are that one. This is our home, to which we will all eventually return (for we have never really left). That makes it sound all nice and fuzzy, but losing our sense of self before we are adequately prepared for it can be a horrifying and painful experience. Once we are prepared, it’s like nothing more than slipping out of an old garment.
This is the purpose of life – to prepare us for the return home. It has something to do with an eternal cycle of renewal, wherein we arise and come into life so that, through living life and experiencing all that it has to offer, we can reawaken to our true nature, thus merging back into the source, but bringing something back with us in the process. And so through that reawakening process, all of existence is continually renewed.
As we move through life (perhaps over the course of many, many lifetimes), we gradually move from the outer layers towards the center. As this happens, the fragmentation lessens, and we see and feel more and more connectedness and wholeness. Finally, when we reach the center, the final separation – that of “I” and “other” falls away, and we realize that it was just an illusion all along – a grand dream, almost infinite in scope. We sometimes glimpse this oneness in the eyes of a loved one, when, for a moment, we cease to experience “me” and “you” and find only a single being, seeing itself through two different pairs of eyes.
All of the stories of the Bible and other religious and spiritual texts are trying to point the way towards this ultimate truth – that ALL is consciousness/being – and there is only one being in all of existence. We are not conscious beings appearing within a physical universe. The physical universe is appearing within consciousness.
These texts can be powerful tools if used properly. But we reach a point where we have to leave them behind and venture forth on our own – because there are no words, concepts, stories, or metaphors that can ever bring us all the way to the center. They all have to be let go of eventually. These texts are designed to help prepare us to take the final “leap of faith” into the unknown and unknowable truth.
To say that we must let go of all these concepts and perceptions is not to say that we must lose them forever. Letting them go for a single moment is all that’s needed, as long as it is a complete letting go. Once we wake up and find ourselves at the center – AS the center, we are free to pick up those thoughts again and to move in the material world as we did before. The difference is that we no longer confuse those concepts as reality. We remain rooted in the center, seeing all experience and concepts as a kind of waking dream, but no longer with any trace of fear or resistance. When this happens, the truth shines through that person, like a beacon for all others to follow.